There are tough losses.
And then there are really tough losses.
The latter is what the Garden City Lady Buffaloes endured Thursday night in an emotional 65-64 overtime loss to Pueblo East to open the 2014 Clarion Inn Southwest Classic at The Garden.
Not even career-high games by the Lady Buffs’ Jessica Carrillo (24 points), Jessica Hinde (13 points) and Ashlee Richman (11 points) were enough to overcome East’s sensational 5-foot-7 junior Jailen Minich, who poured in a game-high 34 points and nearly single-handedly imposed her will on her Lady Eagle teammates to come up with the dramatic victory.
And in the four-minute extra period, it was Minich who also found her teammates with several no-look passes for layups that allowed them to first rally from a 60-57 deficit with 1:23 remaining in OT, and then got the ball to Kayla Albo and Salik Winston, who combined to knock down three clinching free throws in the final 39 seconds.
Down 65-62 after Winston made 1-of-2 charity shots with 21 seconds to play, the Lady Buffs worked it down low to Carrillo, who drained a 10-footer with 0:07 seconds showing. But the Lady Buffs couldn’t foul East before the final buzzer ended the game.
“Those are the difficult ones,” Garden City coach David Upton said afterward. “We’re still looking for that person to step up and provide us the leadership out on the floor. We’re still young and inexperienced game-wise. We need somebody who will be vocal and make sure we’re all on the same page out there.”
The frustration of that lack of leadership was never more clear than in the Lady Buffs’ attempt to slow down Minich, who simply had her way with every defender Upton used to try to slow her down.
“We wanted to sit on her, and keep her from going to her right hand and keep her to her left, but we didn’t really find anybody to do it until right at the end,” Upton said.
Minich torched the Lady Buffs with 12-of-18 shooting, including 2 of 3 behind the arc, and was 8 of 11 at the free-throw line. She also grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.
The game was a roller-coaster for both teams, each grabbing leads and then seeing the other rally to either tie or re-take the advantage.
East, which improved to 3-2, was up by seven, 45-38, with 5:39 remaining in regulation. Then, the Lady Buffs went on a 14-2 run, which included a pair of treys from Hinde and another triple by Richman to go up by five, 52-47, with just under three minutes to go.
But Garden couldn’t sustain the lead, and back came the Lady Eagles, as Minich scored on a driving layup from the left side, knocked down a 3-pointer and then made 1-of-2 free throws with 42 seconds showing to knot the score at 54. Hinde had a chance to put the Buffs in front with 31 ticks on the clock, but missed the front end of a 1-and-1.
Both teams then committed costly turnovers in the final six seconds, leaving neither team with a last-second shot to win.
Carrillo’s Herculean effort also included a game-high eight rebounds as she came off the bench after starting all three games in the Hays City Shootout last week.
“Her not starting was an internal thing, and she took it like a champ,” Upton said when asked about her not being in the starting lineup. “She did her job. I’m proud of her. She stepped up and hit some big shots down the stretch.”
Upton said that despite the tough loss, the Lady Buffs will have to regroup quickly as they did a week ago.
“This group needed that win to get some confidence,” Upton said. “We’ve got to find a way to get over the hump. I thought they did a great job when we fought back, and showed some grit and showed a lot of desire. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. There’s not any time for that.”
Albo was the only other double-figure scorer for the Lady Eagles with 15 points. Garden finished with a 39-30 rebounding advantage, but was guilty of 24 turnovers to 20 miscues for East.
A slow start by the Lady Buffs resulted in an early 7-0 deficit, but they were able to overcome seven first-quarter turnovers to cut the lead to 13-12 at the end of eight minutes.
What they couldn’t stop, however, was Minich, who scored 14 of her points in the first half, 12 of which came on driving layups down the lane.
Garden did clean up the turnover department in the second quarter, but couldn’t overcome the Lady Eagles. They did tie the game once at 19, but then a pair of 3-pointers by East put them into the lead, which they maintained through to halftime, up 29-26.
Carrillo and Richman had six points each for the Lady Buffs in the opening half, Richman’s coming on a pair of treys behind the arc.
Next up for the Lady Buffs, 1-3, will be a contest at 6 tonight against Wichita Trinity at The Garden as Day 2 of The Clarion Inn Southwest Classic continues.
Pueblo East (3-2) — Winston 1-4 2-6 4, Albo 4-9 4-6 15, Day 2-10 1-2 5, Padula 2-6 0-3 4, Minich 12-18 8-11 34, Simony 0-0 0-0 0, Harding 1-3 0-0 3, Rubio 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-50 15-28 65.
Garden City (1-3) — Ashlock 0-0 0-0 0, Munoz 0-1 0-0 0, Dart 1-11 1-4 3, Hinde 4-6 3-4 13, Flowers 0-0 0-0 0, Longoria 0-3 0-0 0, Richman 4-9 0-0 11, Dreiling 2-8 2-2 6, Carrillo 10-15 4-7 24, A. Elliott 3-3 1-1 7. Totals 24-57 5-18 64.
Pueblo East 13 16 8 17 11 — 65
Garden City 12 14 9 19 10 — 64
3-point goals—Pueblo 6-16 (Winston 0-2, Albo 3-7, Padula 0-1, Minich 2-3, Harding 1-3), Garden 5-18 (Dart 0-5, Hinde 2-5, Longoria 0-1, Richman 3-7). Rebounds—Pueblo 30 (Minich 7), Garden 39 (Carrillo 8). Turnovers—Pueblo 20, Garden City 24. Fouls—Pueblo 20, Garden 21. Fouled out—Pueblo (Day), Garden (Dart, Hinde).