FREE THROWS ARE IN BLUHMâ€”SA guard Alyssa Bluhm drains a free throw for one of her 19 points to lead all scores against Bluffton. (Photo by Dylan Malone)
BERNE—While millions frantically shopped for good deals on the day after Thanksgiving, the South Adams girls basketball team frantically forged a come-from-behind win against the Bluffton Tigers on their home court, 43-41.
On what SA coach Brett Freeman will surely call "Black and Gold Friday" from this day forth, the Lady Stars pieced together one of the greatest comebacks in the school's history earning them the victory but, more importantly, ending a three-year winless streak in the conference led by Alyssa Bluhm's 19 points and late heroics by Sharon Balsiger.
The lone senior, Kristen Muselman, playing in her first game coming off an injury, was the beneficiary of her first conference win as well to put the streak into better perspective.
After being down early in the second half by as many as 17 points, the Lady Stars feverishly erased the deficit with their defensive full-court pressure eventually leading to a down-to-the-wire finish with :09.3 on the clock and a tie ball game.
Bluffton had the ball from mid-court with a chance to take the last shot and escape with a victory but the stingy Stars' defense held strong and a five-second call lifted the crowd into a frenzy. Now with the possession, coach Freeman called a timeout to draw up a final play with overtime being the worst-case scenario.
When the Lady Stars came back on the floor, the out of bounds play developed perfectly and the ball went to SA's best post threat, Dzejna Ahmetovic. Making her move, Ahmetovic (or Z as the Starfire faithful call her) lost the handle and the ball squirted free underneath the basket. As she does best, Balsiger came up with the loose ball and with five ticks to go put in the lay-up through a double-team to give the Starfires the lead.
As the time dwindled, the Lady Tigers tried to push the ball down the sidelines but a poised SA defense forced the turnover as the horn sounded and the celebration was on.
"I was confused for a minute when the ball came to me but then I just went up with it!" Balsiger stated with a smile after the game.
"I sweated more than they did, I think," joked coach Freeman.
The game started close at 5-5 late in the first with both teams patiently searching for their openings. Offensively, the Tigers were forced to change up their strategy when one of their better post options, senior Gina Eisenhut, went down with a knee injury early in the game on a drive to the basket. She had assisted on their first two points before going down.
Bluffton's Shannon Penrod drilled a triple to end the silence with just a minute left in the quarter where the score would stay, 8-5, in favor of the Lady Tigers.
The second quarter, Bluffton exploited the holes in the Starfire zone defense finding the outside shot open several times and sharpshooter Marissa Castano took advantage hitting two of her three triples to break open the contest. After an early SA bucket, the Tigers went on a 14-0 run to take a commanding 22-7 lead.
Bluhm hit a pair of free throws to end the run but the Lady Stars faced a tall task down 23-9 at the break.
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