With her team trailing 40-39, and with under 10 seconds left in overtime, Red Demon junior Chidera Okoro got in the way of an inbound pass, attacked the rim and scored what proved to be a game-winning layup against the Ulysses Tigers Tuesday night.
The Red Demons girls basketball team prevailed in overtime 41-40, beating the No. 8 team in the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association 4A rankings.
Okoro’s shot also helped the team complete what was a solid comeback after yet another slow start by the Red Demons. Dodge City trailed Ulysses 11-1 at the end of the first quarter. The lone point in that first quarter: A free throw by Okoro.
“Basketball’s a game of runs, we always talk about it,” Red Demon head coach Kelley Snodgrass said. “They got out early and then we kind of punched back. I was proud of how they came back defensively and forced some turnovers and played well together.”
The Red Demons outscored the Tigers 13-9 in the second quarter, and 15-3 in the third to take a 29-23 lead into the fourth.
The fourth quarter didn’t go so well for the Red Demons, who got outscored 9-3 in it.
“I felt like in the fourth quarter we needed to be smarter with the ball, but then we took steps back and weren’t as aggressive,” Snodgrass said. “That’s part of the youth, but I saw progress, and with Chidera’s help we were determined to get this one.”
The Red Demons trailed 20-14 at halftime, but in the third quarter outplayed the Tigers from the opening possession.
The Tigers took the ball first, but Red Demon freshman Camree Johnson blocked and stole the ball from a Tiger player in one of the corners of the Red Demon defensive end and passed it up the court on a fast break.
It ended up in sophomore Kisa Unruh’s hands but she passed it off to a trailing Red Demon. That player then passed it into Okoro who had found her way into the lane, but a recovering Tiger defense halted her progress. She quickly turned and passed it to Unruh in the corner, who fired of a quick 3-pointer.
It was Unruh’s first points of the night. Seconds later, she got the ball again and hit another, this one with about 6:58 left in the third.
In the span of about one minute and two seconds, the Red Demons had dissolved the Tigers’ lead. Unruh’s second 3 tied the game at 20-20. Johnson gave the Red Demons a 23-20 lead after a basket and an and-1 with about 6:11 left.
The sequence of Johnson’s block and Unruh’s 3 to open the quarter helped set the tone for it.
Snodgrass said the team played good team defense on that play, particularly in the way Johnson helped. She came off of the player she was guarding to make that block, Snodgrass said.
This young Red Demon team continues to learn and grow, and Tuesday night’s contest was another chance to against tough competition, in this case against a team they’d already seen lots of this year. Starters for the Red Demons were Unruh, fellow-sophomore Lauren Gleason, Okoro, Johnson and freshman Amaya Perez.
“Ulysses is a great team,” Snodgrass said. “They’re a very tough opponent, we definitely didn’t want to see them three times this year. I think that we’re continuing to learn and in those end-of-game situations I think we’re being more aggressive at the right time. Overall, pleased with their efforts.”
Box Score by quarter (with overtime included):
Ulysses: 11, 9, 3, 9, 8 — 40
Dodge City: 1, 13, 15, 3, 9 — 41
Ulysses scorers and points (arranged by roster number):
- Castilleja 13; Haney 12; Oglevie 4; Garcia 3; Gomez 4; Ballesteros 4.
Dodge City scorers and points (arranged by roster number):
- Johnson 10; Unruh 11; Gleason 2; Okoro 9; Edwards 7; Solis 2.