The Bucks couldn’t have cut things any closer on Friday night.
Pendleton and the visiting Redmond Panthers were tied in the final seconds, threatening a trip into overtime. But Bucks sophomore guard Dakota Sams knocked down a miracle 3-pointer for a 56-53 Intermountain Conference win.
“All that was going through my mind was, ‘It’s tied. You just gotta take the shot,’” Sams said of his game-saving play. “It was gut instinct.”
A game this close against Redmond, a team ranked No. 5 of 6 in league play, might not have been expected. But the Panthers never let the Bucks out of their sight, and were well on their way to their second league win.
“They’re ranked low, but on any given night, anyone can beat you,” Sams said. “We didn’t match their intensity. We didn’t hit our shots or play good defense. I think anyone on our team would say that.”
Pendleton let go of the lead twice in the first quarter before putting it away 17-11. The Panthers would come dangerously close to taking over again in the second, off a key trey from junior wing Jack McKenzie. But Bucks senior guard Tyler Newsom and junior guard Kason Broncheau responded with 3-pointers of their own to ensure a 30-24 halftime lead.
“(Redmond) did a lot of things well tonight,” said Pendleton coach Zach Dong. “Every team’s defensive goal is to go out there and dictate what the other team’s offense does, that they did that.”
Junior forward Dylan Moss pushed Redmond to the top in the third quarter, sinking a 3-pointer for a 37-35 advantage. But Newsom knocked down three at the line to keep Pendleton alive.
A bucket from Moss put Redmond out front again with 6:32 in the final quarter, and when Pendleton pulled ahead 53-50 in the last five seconds, coach Regean Gilbertson called a Panthers timeout to strategize their final move.
It was after the break that Panthers junior guard Javin Westendorf tied things up from outside the arc. Sams nabbed the rebound.
“Everything slowed down,” Dong said “I debated about calling a timeout, but I saw Dakota had the ball. I had faith in him to make it.”
And he did. Buckaroo fans across the bleachers leapt to their feet as Sams sealed Pendleton’s third IMC victory.
“I felt amazing,” Sams said of the moments after his shot. “And I was relieved we avoided overtime.”
Sams and Newsom both led the Bucks with 14 points, and Broncheau followed with 11.
Pendleton (13-5, 3-1 IMC) travels to the No. 6 Ridgeview Ravens’ court on Tuesday.
The No. 1 Redmond Panthers handed the Pendleton girls their first Intermountain Conference loss on Friday night.
The Bucks dropped the road matchup 56-45.
“The final score does not reflect the game with any stretch of the imagination,” said coach Kevin Porter. “We executed our game plan for 30 of those 32 minutes.”
The Bucks were out front for most of the game, taking a 25-19 advantage into the locker room. It was in the fourth quarter that things slipped away from them.
The Panthers tore away to outscore the Bucks 22-8 in the final minutes to come out on top.
“We’re a lot younger, and Redmond is more experienced in closing out games,” Porter said. “That helped them down the stretch.”
Senior Katie Bradt and sophomore Josie Wilson each put nine points on the board to lead Pendleton, and sophomore Natalie Neveau added eight.
Meanwhile, the Panthers were propelled by three sharpshooters: Senior McKaylie Capps with 21 points, junior Ellie Corwin with 17, and senior Ava Kitchin with 13.
“I’m super excited with my team,” said Porter. “We took a five-hour bus trip and showed up ready to play. We learned a lot today. We’re going to work on closing games out. We’re going to grow from this and welcome them to our house next time.”
The Bucks (7-11, 3-1 IMC) return home on Tuesday to play Ridgeview for a 6:30 p.m. tip-off.