When the Lady Conquistadores’ leading scorer Tati Dunlap fouled out with just under seven minutes remaining against the SLO Tigers, no one in Tiger Gym knew who on the team would step-up.
Turns out, they all did.
In the Cabrillo girls basketball team’s final game at the Moriarty Enterprises Holiday Classic, Senior Paige Hurlbut hit a 3-point shot in the final seconds of overtime to force a second and final four-minute frame, where the Conqs eventually fell 63-61 in a heroic effort against host San Luis Obispo.
With 10 seconds left in overtime and trailing by three, junior Kiley Aldridge missed the game-tying shot from beyond the arc, but, as the Conqs did throughout the course of the game, they scrapped and clawed inside the paint to force a jump ball.
The arrow was pointing their way.
The Conqs swung the ball around the court to an open Hurlbut, who, with just the team’s second 3-point attempt of the game, drained the shot to send the game into double overtime.
“The plan was to find Paige,” Aldridge said after the game. “Paige passed it to me and I threw it up, but we battled and Paige hit the shot so it worked out.”
By double overtime, both the Conqs and Tigers were visibly exhausted both physically and emotionally.
Even the coaches were mentally drained.
“It was pandemonium,” Cabrillo head coach Mark Tausch said.
It was sheer will and fortitude that got the team into the first overtime.
With Dunlap out and the score knotted at 45 apiece, the Tigers went on a quick 5-0 run. However, with the Conqs looking as if they were about to fade, every player in a “Lady Conq” uniform laid her body on the line, diving for every loose ball to give the team every chance to pull out the win.
In the carousel of guards on the Conqs’ roster, every single one was running at full speed. Guards Alyssa Abayari, Taylor Wagonseller, Hurlbut and Steffie Miyamoto locked down the sharp-shooting Tigers and pushed the game’s tempo.
Hurlbut, one of the shortest girls on the floor, often was the one who came out of the tangle of limbs with a rebound.
Miyamoto scored the final six points in the fourth for Cabrillo, knotting it up at 53-53 in the final minute.
In double OT, the Conqs held a four-point advantage with 30 seconds remaining.
Costly fouls and consistent free-throw shooting eventually sealed the win for the Tigers, as SLO’s Olivia Kilgore sunk two from the line and an easy lay-up off a steal to crush the Conqs hopes of victory.
“I probably should have done some coaching in that second overtime, but I bit my tongue and I let the girls win it,” SLO coach Michael Godsey said.
Dunlap led the scoring for the Conqs with 25 points, including the bulk of a 14-0 run to start the second half. Both Aldridge and Miyamoto finished with 10, while center Alyssa Sharpe finished with six hard-earned points in the paint.
The Tigers’ scoring was fueled by the deadly three-point accuracy of its guards, as Kelsey O’Hagan finished with 12 points — all from beyond the arc — and Kaylee Williams with 17 points, 11 coming from the free-throw line.
The Tigers finished 2-2 at their home tournament.
One of the faults for the Conqs throughout the tournament has been their lack of rebounding, mostly founded on not boxing-out in the key. This, however, wasn’t the case against SLO, as the shorter Cabrillo squad laid into their taller opponents and worked for every ball.
“You get mad when they’re getting baskets off of rebounds,” Aldridge said. “But when you box-out it’s a good feeling when you get the ball and more shots because of it.”
While the loss dropped the Conqs to 0-4 in the tournament, the team has seen a revelation in its level of play from the first to the final game of the Holiday Classic.
“Without a question this is the best game we’ve played, we just need on a build on it and hope that this isn’t just a once-every-two-week phenomenon,” Tasch said.
While the season is still young, the Conqs appear to be coming together at the right time with both passion and aggression.
“I am really proud of the team and excited to go back on Monday to practice and for the next game,” Aldridge said.
The Conqs look to carry the momentum from Saturday’s thriller into their next game, Wednesday against Paso Robles.