By KEVIN THOMPSON
SUBLETTE — And a freshman shall lead them, or so might say the prophecy, if such a dramatic ending could have been scripted.
Just three days before substate play begins, the Sublette and Stanton County girls ended league play with a tightly contested game, with the hometown Lady Larks' Regan Matteson hitting a three-pointer at the buzzer to give her team a 48-47 win over the Lady Trojans.
While her sister, senior Riley Matteson, had 21 points to lead all scorers, it was the freshman sibling who provided the buzzer-beating dramatics.
Down by two with five seconds remaining, Sublette called a timeout. The Larks got the ball in on the three-quarters mark on the far sideline. Brooke Briggs dribbled to the free throw line, where the ball went into pinball mode, rolling randomly in the circle on the floor.
It ricocheted right the freshman Matteson, who tossed it in just from the left of the key, and found nothing but net.
And it all happened because coach Monty Marlin called time out on the missed rebound free throw when his team actually had a fast break. But all that would have created was an overtime, so things worked out just right, he said.
Not that any of this was drawn up, he added wryly.
"I knew coming into the game, because of their size, that we were just going to have to score from the perimeter, but we just struggled. It felt like we had open looks all night but we struggled making open shots," Marlin said.
Nothing was certain in this game. Not the three-point Sublette lead at the end of the opening quarter. Not the eight-point Stanton County lead three minutes into the third, nor its four-point lead with just 1:03 to play.
It was the younger Matteson who, with just 17 seconds left, drained a three, a portent of her final heroics, which she hit following Jenna Black making one of a pair of free throws with six seconds remaining, setting up coach Marlin's final play.
One of the keys to staying with the taller Lady Trojans, Marlin said, was force more turnovers and cut back on his team's own.
That they did, 10 to Stanton County's 20, and that kept the game close.
The Larks got off to a good start and were within a point at halftime.
But Stanton County went on a 7-0 run to start the third, and were up 32-24 just like that.
That's when the freshman Briggs and the older Matteson went to work, scoring the next 16 Lark points, including ties at 38 and 40 with just over three minutes to play.
Black made the game's lone field goal the rest of the game — a 3-pointer — before Regan Matteson's final two 3s to finish the game.
Even in the loss, Stanton County coach Marty Garrison was proud of his team.
"That was probably one of the better games we've played all year," he said.
This win was big for the Sublette program, Marlin said, as it tied Southwestern Heights for second in the Hi-Plains League, "a big deal for our program."
Sublette looks to carry that winning feeling into substate Tuesday when it hosts Hodgeman County as the third seed.
Stanton County, the fourth seed, hosts South Gray on Tuesday, as well, the first time the girls have hosted in a long time, Garrison said.
Stanton County 10 15 11 11 -- 47
Sublette 13 11 16 8 -- 48
Stanton County (6-13, 0-8) — Ochoa 2 0-0 4, Lawrence 1 0-0 2, L. Erskin 5 2-2 13, Black 5 3-4 15, Girard 2 0-1 4, Overturf 2 3-6 7, Smith 0 2-2 2. Totals 17-46 10-15 47.
Sublette (9-10, 6-2) — Ri. Matteson 10 0-1 21, Briggs 5 2-2 13, Ornelas 2 0-4 4, Cooley 0 2-2 2, Whaler 1 0-0 2, Reg. Matteson 2 0-0 6.. Totals 20-53 4-9 48.
3-pt. goals — Stanton County 3-7 (L. Erskin, Black 2), Sublette 4-13 (Ri. Matteson, Briggs, Reg. Matteson 2). Rebounds — Stanton County 27 (Overturf 9, L. Erskin 9), Sublette 24 (Ornelas 7, Briggs 6). Turnovers — Stanton County 20, Sublette 10. Technical fouls — none. Fouled out — Stanton County (Overturf). Total fouls — Stanton County 16, Sublette 15.