Talia Roberts was not going to be denied.
It took spinning layups through traffic, mid-range jumpers at the buzzer and game-tying 3-pointers to even get her Garden City Community College women’s basketball team to overtime, after trailing visiting Independence by as many as 15. Yet, it was three calm, collected, picture-perfect free throws with less than a second remaining in overtime to deliver the Broncbusters a miracle, 76-75 win on Saturday afternoon at Conestoga Arena.
“She keeps us calm, even when we get antsy because all of our blood is pumping. She’s the calm in the storm,” freshman post Taneigh Boyd said of Roberts, who finished with 22 points, including 12 of the Busters’ final 13 of the game.
The Busters (8-6, 3-2) never led in regulation and trailed the Pirates (6-7, 1-5) by as many as 13 in the first half and 15 early in the second. Their first lead, of course, came thanks to Roberts, who sank a 3-pointer from the left wing to put the Busters on top, 70-69, early in overtime.
And when Indy re-took the lead, it was a pair of Roberts’ free throws that gave the Busters their second lead.
Then it was Independence’s hero, Brittany Reeves, who had a game-high 29 points by dominating the paint against the smaller Buster posts, who nearly had the game-winner, getting another easy lay in at the rim to go for the two-point lead with a little more than a minute to go.
Roberts tried to answer on the Busters’ next possession, but was whistled for an offensive foul. When Indy missed a pair of free throws at the other end with 20 seconds remaining, Roberts got another chance, and this time the whistle went her way.
Immediately out of the inbound, the Busters got the ball to Roberts, who tried to set up a play at the top of the key, but it fell apart. So she improvised, dribbling towards the right corner for what could have been the game-winning 3-pointer. Instead, she was fouled with 0.6 seconds remaining, sending her to the line for the trio of free throws.
Before each one, there was no hesitation, and each one went in with ease.
“I’m a great free-throw shooter,” Roberts said with a smile. “Not to sound cocky, but we do that every practice … so if I didn’t make those, it was going to be a problem.”
No problems here, and as the last free throw fell through the basket, the Buster bench exploded in celebration. The Busters had stolen the win.
“We just fought,” Roberts said of the Busters’ comeback. “Coach (Charinee) Mitchell always preaches to us, ‘fight, fight, fight.’”
They had to, after trailing by as many as 15 in the second half. The Busters rallied, though, getting it down to nine in the fourth quarter, and Boyd cut that to six with a short jumper and free throw after the foul.
Roberts cut the lead to four with a layup, and then later to three on a sprawling lay in as she was knocked to the floor.
Independence went back ahead by five, only to have Roberts make yet another dribble-drive and layup, and this time she drew the foul to go to the line. She sank the free throw to make it 61-59 with three minutes to play.
As the Pirates seemed to for most of the game, they answered with a Victoria Mikkelsen 3-pointer. Boyd got a putback to go in, and then another layup to make it 64-63.
Mychaell Gray got 1-of-2 free throws to go for Indy, but Roberts made both of hers to tie it. But the 5-foot-10 Gray — who finished with 13 points while fellow post Brittany Reeves had 29 — made another bucket, forcing Roberts to find another answer. The sophomore star did in the form of a 14-foot jumper in the final seconds of regulation to tie it and send it to overtime.
“The kid is tough,” Mitchell said of Roberts. “The kid needs to be signed. She’s not signed, yet. The coaches are calling, but they haven’t signed her, yet, and all I can say is it’s because of her size, but the kid is a pure scorer.”
Contact J. Levi Burnfin at firstname.lastname@example.org.