Free throws lift Knights past Marauders | Girls basketball

Hunter Beirne helps Kamiak to thrilling 56-54 victory over district rival Mariner
By David Pan | Feb 03, 2017
Photo by: David Pan Kamiak’s Hunter Beirne guards Mariner’s Tanya Kochergina during a Wesco 4A game Jan. 24 at Mariner High School.

It’s a scenario that has been played over and over again in Hunter Beirne’s mind.

The Kamiak sophomore is at the free throw line with the game on the line. The score is tied with a couple of seconds left in regulation. The crowd is going crazy.

Only what was the dream of a young player turned into reality on Jan. 24 at Mariner High School.

Beirne calmly sank two free throws with 2.3 seconds left to lift the Knights to a thrilling 56-54 victory over the Marauders in a Wesco 4A girls basketball game.

“It feels pretty good,” Beirne said of Kamiak’s hard-fought victory over its district rival.

Seconds earlier, Mariner was in a position to win the game. Senior center Zari Smith rebounded a Kamiak miss on the front end of a one-and-one free throw attempt and the Marauders were bringing the ball up the court.

Beirne then saw an opportunity to steal the ball.

“I was looking to play tough D originally,” Beirne said. “I saw the ball and I saw I had the steal open and I grabbed it. I knew I needed to go to the hole because we didn’t have much time left.”

Beirne was fouled during a layup attempt and found herself at the free throw line.

“Hunter mentioned to me after the game she’s had dreams of being on the line with just a few seconds left with the crowd going crazy,” Kamiak coach Brian Norman said. “I guess one of her dreams came true. She hit a couple of free throws today.”

After practice Beirne likes to stick around and shoot with her aunt.

“Last night I did that and shot a decent amount of free throws,” she said. “That helps, just knowing my form and knowing what I was doing going up there.”

Beirne’s success at the line was a sharp contrast to a tough night from the field for the Knights (8-3 in the league, 11-6 overall). Kamiak shot only 30 percent from the field (18 of 60) and missed 22 layins. The Knights connected on 33 percent of their 3-point shot attempts (8 of 24).

“We’re getting to the rim and I think we’re looking for contact rather than thinking about making shots,” Norman said.

Mariner coach Corey Gibb, though disappointed by the loss, appreciated both teams’ performances and the enthusiasm of the loud crowd.

“That’s what a rivalry looks like and sounds like,” he said. “It was fun.”

Smith led all scorers with 23 points and junior Denisa Grebovic added 10 points for the Marauders (4-7, 7-10).

“We talked a lot about going hard to the hoop, hard to the basket,” Gibb said. “She (Smith) did a good job. She stepped up. She did well. It probably was her best game of the season.”

The Knights didn’t have any answers defending Smith.

“She just had a really solid night,” Norman said. “She gives us problems.”

The loss was the second straight heartbreaker for the Marauders, which were edged 50-49 by Mount Vernon on Jan. 20.

“We didn’t finish Friday against Mount Vernon,” Gibb said. “It’s little battles throughout the whole game. Every possession is a battle. We’ve got to try and win every one. A couple here and there and that’s a different game.”

Senior Sarah Payne led the Knights with 26 points and Senior Aliea Marrero added 13 points. Payne scored 15 in the first half.

“She (Payne) was pretty consistent all through the game,” Norman said. “We just missed a lot of easy shots and compounded it with some turnovers. Eventually we kind of pulled ourselves out of  it, but we never really felt like we had a good flow the whole night. Credit Mariner. They’re playing very well and they play tough defense. Nothing came easy for sure. That’s for sure.”

Kamiak started the week in third place in the league, while Mariner was fifth. The top six teams advance to the district playoffs.

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