A. Neal’s free throws cap dramatic comeback | SummitDaily.com

A. Neal’s free throws cap dramatic comeback

Summit Daily/Reid Williams

FARMER’S KORNER ” Good thing Amanda Neal didn’t do what she thought she was going to do. Because if she did, she might not have hit the shots that won a thrilling girls basketball game on Tuesday night.

With her team down 39-38 and 3.4 seconds on the clock, Neal stepped to the line and cooly sank both ends of a one-and-one, giving Summit its second comeback win of the year against 4A Jeffco League rival Conifer.

Neal, a junior co-captain who has struggled with free throws this year and missed her only two leading up to the dramatic pair on Tuesday, had to wait through an officials meeting that resulted in .5 seconds getting taken off the clock before she could shoot.

“I thought I was going to cry, I was so nervous,” she said. Then came the clock delay, which actually served Neal and the Tigers well. “It made me calm down a bit and not be so paranoid,” she added. “I think it really helped me, because if I would’ve shot them right away I think I would’ve rushed them.”

Neal’s two free throws capped an eight-point comeback in the final 2:06 for Summit, which improved to 15-7 (5-3 in Jeffco). The Lobos (13-8, 5-3) led 39-32 but made some costly late mistakes, paving the way for the Tigers’ 40-39 win.

Summit also erased a 13-point deficit over the final 10 minutes of a 62-59 win at Conifer last month to set the stage for Tuesday’s season sweep.

“We just have a lot of fight in us at the end,” said SHS senior co-captain Shannon Buhler, one of three Summit players that almost didn’t play because they were too sick. “I wish we had that fight throughout the game, but when it comes down to the end we’ve got more fight than most teams.”

Conifer took an early lead against Summit, largely by controlling the inside and not giving the perimeter-oriented Tigers any open looks from the outside. After SHS cut the lead to 18-16 at halftime, Conifer outscored its host 10-5 in the third to take a 28-21 lead into the final eight minutes.

The Tigers tied it at 30 on Samantha Neal’s left-handed layup in transition with 4:55 left, but Conifer responded with a 9-2 run that looked like it would hold up.

It didn’t. Amanda Neal (layup), Buhler (3-pointer) and Cissy Daniels (free throw) combined for six straight points to get Summit back within one. But Amanda Neal stepped on the line with 18 seconds to go, then she missed a tough shot under the basket with eight seconds left.

It all set the stage for her last-second heroics from the charity stripe, which came about after she was fouled upon rebounding one of two straight free throws the Lobos missed with a chance to ice it.

“It was huge,” Buhler said of her fellow captain’s clutch shooting. “It was probably the biggest two shots she’s hit all year, maybe her whole career.”

Junior role player Amelia Meier stole Conifer’s last-gasp inbounds heave, sealing the win. It was the Lobos’ 10th turnover of the fourth quarter.

“It’s real gratifying,” SHS coach Jeff Neal said. “We had big contributions from kids who were sick and just gutted it out. Down the stretch we made big plays. I’m really proud of them.”

As for the uncharacteristic winning ways, the coach added: “I don’t necessarily like watching that style. I’d rather see us be banging down 3’s, but again, I’ve told the girls it’s better to win ugly than to lose ugly.”

Tip-ins: Daniels led the Tigers with 10 points, Buhler added nine and Amanda Neal added eight to go along with 10 rebounds. Samantha Neal chipped in with seven … Even though the Tigers have a chance to take second place in Jeffco with a win Thursday at home against Englewood (7 p.m.), Summit won’t practice today to give the players a chance to rest and get healthy … The Tigers hit just two 3’s in the game, and the Lobos managed just one.

Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 231, or at doneil@summitdaily.com.

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