by Thomas Spencer
“I was a proud, proud coach, they channeled a great amount of emotion,” said Heather Berry, head coach of the Darby Tigers, following their dramatic win over valley rival Victor, 51-47. Going into Friday’s game the Lady Tigers had struggled in their first game against the Pirates, but it was a different story this weekend. Coach Berry aimed at clarifying expectations and focusing her athletes on what they could control.
The Lady Pirates controlled the game, much like they did in the first matchup, until late in the fourth quarter. With a minute-forty remaining in the game it was 41-43 Pirates and Victor senior Bella Schicilone forced a foul driving the lane and found herself at the foul line with the hope of going up by four. She nailed the first one, 41-44, then missed the second. With the ball back, Lady Tiger number 12 Samantha Shull launched up a jumper that banked in. Now in transition racing down the floor, Schicilone drove hard in the paint and drew another foul with the opportunity to extend the Pirate lead. After missing the first, she hit the second, 43-45 Pirates. Then Lady Tigers inbounded the ball rushing down with 47 seconds remaining when freshman Petra Mustafa rebounded the long shot and banked in a basket with a foul sending her to the line and sending a wave of hope to the Darby sideline. Her made basket was thwarted by a line violation, bringing the score to 45-45, Pirate ball.
Strong backcourt pressure from the Tigers forced a bad pass right into the hands of Sierra Reed who promptly dribbled down for the basket, finally claiming the lead for the Lady Tigers. But not for long. The Pirates, reigning in their passes, quickly scored with a two-foot jumper by Virginia Brown. However, for the second time in the fourth, Mustafa was waiting at the block for the ball and forced another and-one shot. At 49-47 with 8 seconds left on the clock, the freshman, who had several minutes in the JV game earlier in the day, was about to give her team the three-point advantage. Pirate Head Coach Ryan Tolley immediately called a timeout to regroup his squad in the final second left after the made free throw.
With all the excitement and momentum, the Lady Tigers marched to their bench where they found their cool and collected coach ready with instructions. “I made multiple comments trying to calm my younger players, repeated directions in the huddle, and made sure they understood the importance of what they were expected to do.”
And with that possession, the Lady Tigers held on to their late-game lead for a dramatic and thrilling win over Victor.
“This win will help build some much-needed confidence in individual players and in their teammates,” said Berry. “This win was a fun game to coach and we are blessed to have come out of the hard-fought battle on top!”
This certainly was a big win for the Lady Tigers who will likely see the Lady Pirates in the District Tournament. And if you are a Darby fan you will want to see a performance like this one in the postseason. Notably from senior captain Amber Anderson who posted an impressive 23 points in this game and was followed by Mustafa who had 10, mostly all coming in the fourth.
“I was so happy for my players,” said Berry. “Their play was full of heart and guts.”