Lone senior DeAna Tyson enjoyed a festive pregame ceremony on senior night and then went out and scored six points and hauled in 11 rebounds, including six on the offensive end.
She was more nervous before the game than she was getting a rare start.
“Initially, I was extremely nervous, I had an anxious kind of day and I was kind of jittery because I knew I was going to have a big crowd with my family here,” Tyson said. “As soon as I got in the gym and the JV game was going on, I had to lock my head into the fact that it was the last night that I was going to be playing on my home court in the regular season. I made it my business to have a good game on at least one end of the court and I think I did well at both of them tonight.”
Western Tech coach Alan Lagon was impressed with her vocal support team.
“That’s why she’s a great kid,” Lagon said. “She’s got a great family. They come to all the games and they support her and they have done that for four years.”
Tyson played JV her first two seasons and varsity as a junior and senior.
Visiting Hereford doesn’t have any seniors on its roster and it was junior Saunders who was hot from the start.
She scored Hereford’s first 10 points and helped the Bulls build a 17-11 lead after one quarter.
Harden had five in the second quarter when they extended the lead to 31-21 at intermission.
Western Tech switched from a 1-3-1 zone to man-to-man defense and the Bulls didn’t get their first field goal until Isabella Peterson scored on a layup with 2:09 left in the third quarter and they also lost Saunders for awhile due to a foot injury.
“She was on fire and she usually is and when we lost her, we just had to play as a team keep doing what we do,” said Harden, who picked up the slack with nine points in the second half.
But, the Wolverines didn’t go away easily.
Besides playing lockdown defense in the third quarter, they also got three free throws and a three-pointer from Manning and a trey from freshman Sydney Stokes and they pulled within five, 38-33, by the end of the quarter.
“We didn’t do a good job running our man-to-man offense,” Hereford coach John Billington said. “I felt like we were getting some good looks down low, but we just weren’t doing a good job finishing.”
Baskets by Deluzio and Harden pushed the lead to 42-33 with 6:33 left in the fourth quarter, but three early steals by Manning sparked a a 4-0 run that started with a three-pointer by Stokes and was followed with a free throw by Manning, making it 42-37 with 5:36 left.
A putback by Chloe Parker pushed the lead back to seven, but Manning assisted Kelechi Onuigbo and the Wolverines only trailed, 44-39 with 5:07 left in the game.
Onuigbo’s free throw was answered with a foul shot by Peterson and it was 45-40 with 4:28 left.
Two free throws by Manning, one from Tyson and two from Stokes tied the score at 45-all with 3:05 remaining, but the Wolverines went scoreless the rest of the way.
After Haden’s short jumper broke the tie, her free throw extended the lead to 48-45 with 18.8 seconds, and a basket by Deluzio and two free throws by Peterson ended the scoring.
“This is a young team and we don’t play four quarters and they jumped all over us and we tried to dig ourselves over the hole and we just couldn’t get over the top,” Lagon said. “That intensity is not there in the fourth quarter.”
Despite losing the 10-point halftime lead, Hereford’s Billington was impressed by the way his team closed it out.
“It got to be a physical game and I felt like we just weren’t converting on the offensive end,” Billington said. “Fortunately, we were hitting our free throws at the end and we got a clutch jump shot from Reese to kind of clinch things.”
Billington also liked the way his team overcame the loud crowd of supporters.
“We are not used to playing in an atmosphere like that. The crowd was very vocal, very loud,” he said. “It’s a good test for us, not a pretty one, but we are glad to take it.”
Western Tech’s senior Tyson appreciated her team’s effort in the comeback.
“I’m so proud of my team for being able to claw back,” she said. “That just goes to show the type of team that we are. We’ve had so many games like this where we are down at halftime and we’ve clawed our way back in.”