NEW PORT RICHEY — Offense was at a premium in Wednesday’s battle of one-loss teams. That is until regulation ended and things got a little crazy. Justine Vega hit the winning shot with 32 seconds left as River Ridge got by Mitchell 39-37 in double overtime.
Vega came through when someone needed to take over for Leah Ford, who fouled out with 2:30 remaining having tallied 22 points. Other than Ford and Kayle Stark, no other Royal Knights player had hit a field goal until Vega sank two in the second OT.
Ford’s scoreline looks like she had it easy, but that was far from the case.
“It felt like I scored 10,” said Ford, in deference to the defensive efforts of Mitchell’s Ashley Lewis, an AAU teammate of Ford.
With Lewis on the bench for a minute-long breather, Ford converted two easy baskets, putting River Ridge ahead 22-15 with 4:20 left in the third quarter. Lewis came back in — and the Knights scored one point the remainder of regulation.
So discombobulating was Lewis that River Ridge (9-1) mustered only three shots in the fourth quarter, all by Ford. But at the same time Mitchell went just 2-for-10 and the game was 23 apiece heading into overtime.
Lewis gave the Mustangs (6-2) the early lead in the first OT, which ended with Mitchell’s Hannah Kriston’s dramatic 3 from the corner. She had missed her previous nine shots from the floor and was 2-for-13 in regulation.
“I still knew it was going in when I took it. I have a pretty short memory,” Kriston said.
In the second overtime Kriston and Vega exchanged baskets before Lewis drew the charge that fouled out Ford. River Ridge sophomore Shaqueria Gaddy, called up from JV in the afternoon by coach Joeyn Dearsman, made a free throw for the lead with 1:53 remaining. Kelly Oliver answered with a gutsy drive to put Mitchell up 37-36 with a minute left, but then Vega drove in for her big basket.
“We’re so used to the other team collapsing on Leah that when she fouls out it actually opens up the court,” said Stark, who along with Vega had seven points.
Lewis barely missed from 8 feet and MacKenzie Kistler provided the final margin with a free throw. Mitchell’s chance at forcing a third OT rimmed out.
Kriston led Mitchell with 13 points and Alani Alexander pulled down 11 rebounds. Kim Knudsen scored all six of her points in the second half, including the basket that made it 23-23 with 1:40 left in regulation. Mitchell missed a layup with 20 seconds remaining.
Carly Wallace had all three of River Ridge’s overtime assists. Ford, who had a team-high 10 rebounds, scored eight in the first half as River Ridge, despite an 0-for-14 stretch, led 13-11 at the break. The Knights made the same number of shots in the OTs (four) as they did in each of the first two halves.