Mayer’s last-ditch 3-pointer sends No. 4 Soroco to regional final
OAK CREEK — Let’s get one thing straight. Eden Mayer is not a three-point shooter.
The Soroco senior is the tallest member of the Rams girls basketball team and is a post player through and through. Still, with her team down two points to No. 29 Del Norte with 20 seconds left and her toes a whole step behind the three-point line, Mayer took the shot.
“We don’t leave Eden open on the three-point line,” said senior Sophia Benjamin. “That’s what we’ve been saying all week. It was awesome. It was perfect.”
As the ball fell through the net, the crowd rose and the No. 4 Rams celebrated. The basket secured a 40-39 win on Friday, March 4, and earned the Rams a spot in the regional final. The win was also their 21st of the season, tying the school record for most in a year.
Normally, Mayer wouldn’t take such a low-percentage shot, but she and everyone around her had confidence in her ability to sink it.
“Our three-point shooter, Kayedence Bruner, when we were warming up she said, ‘At this point, I trust you to shoot the three,’” Mayer said. “When she tossed me the ball for the assist, she was like, ‘Shoot it. Shoot it. I’m not going to be open.’ So, I was like, ‘OK.’”
Benjamin admitted the game was way closer than it should have been.
“Every team we play comes out with the intent that this is their state championship game. If they beat us, it makes their season,” Benjamin said. “We made a lot of mistakes that we shouldn’t have. We couldn’t really get shots to drop until the last three minutes of the game, and we had more turnovers than we should have had, and they came out to play.”
After nearly shutting out Del Norte in the first quarter, Soroco led by as much as nine in the second, 16-7. The Tigers kept striking, though. Eventually, the rapid pace of the game and the frequent passes put holes in Soroco’s defense. Del Norte chipped away. At halftime, the game was tied at 17-17.
In the second half, Del Norte strung together seven straight points to make it 29-24. The gap was just five points, but it felt greater. The gym was quiet, and Soroco coach David Bruner, who is usually screaming and animated, stood silent at the end of the bench with his hands on his hips.
A pair of free throws from senior Peyton Parker made it 29-26 after three quarters. The Rams faithful rose and reminded the players they still had faith in them. They weren’t out of the game.
The deficit stayed the same through the first few minutes of the fourth, but things seemed to take a turn for the worst when Parker fouled out with five minutes to play.
Benjamin stepped up. She knocked down six straight points for Soroco, cutting the advantage to 36-34 with 2:37 left to play. Free throws from seniors Irene Hoff and Mayer made it a one-point game at 38-37. There was a minute left to play.
Coach Bruner started yelling again.
Soroco went to work on defense knowing one big stop could potentially win the game. Del Norte freshman Baylie Laymon elbowed Kayedence Bruner, fouling out. With 21 seconds left, Soroco had possession of the ball, and apparently, a little bit of luck.
After Mayer’s make, there were still 14 seconds on the clock. A Del Norte player put up a wide-open attempt with three seconds remaining in the game, but the ball dinked off the rim and away from anyone reaching for the rebound.
“It’s just what I told you at the beginning of the year,” coach Bruner said. “You got to have a little luck.”
No. 4 Soroco 40, No. 29 Del Norte
S 8 9 9 14 – 40
DN 2 15 12 10 – 39
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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