It was the play in the playbook saved for emergencies, the one rarely called because of its high level of difficulty.
With 6.8 seconds left in overtime and the score tied, Half Hollow Hills West needed to travel the length of the court.
Kayla Robertson inbounded the ball with Tori Harris and Channiah Baker stationed at the free-throw line. Sam Hinke broke from midcourt to receive the pass and Baker picked both defenders at the foul line, sending Harris flying upcourt.
Hinke found Harris, who was fouled while attempting a layup with 1.6 seconds left. She sank both free throws to give the Colts a thrilling 90-88 Suffolk IV girls basketball victory over host Kings Park on Thursday in a game in which Hills West had trailed by 26 points.
“I knew it would work because it was drawn up well and everybody understood it in the huddle,” said the 6-1 Harris, who filled the stat sheet with 42 points, 28 rebounds, four blocks and three steals. “Then we executed it really well.”
Not everyone was as confident. “To be honest, I was nervous taking the ball out,” said Robertson, whose relentless pressure defense helped the Colts overcome a 53-34 halftime deficit.
Hills West coach Bryan Dugan said he couldn’t find the right defense to combat the potent first-half offense of Kings Park (8-2). The Kingsmen built a 52-26 second-quarter lead over the Colts (6-3) and had 10 three-pointers by halftime.
So in the second half, Dugan abandoned traditional defense in favor of swarming, full-court pressure that forced the Kingsmen into a more erratic offense. It was something of a shot in the dark. But down 19 entering the third quarter, the Colts needed to take risks. Like the inbounds play, it worked.
“We had to win quarter by quarter,” said Robertson, who had 11 points. “We had to slowly chip away at their lead.”
Hills West trailed 63-40 before a 14-0 run breathed life into the team and the visiting crowd. But Kings Park closed the third quarter on a 7-0 run, capped by three of Tiffany Slicklein’s 34 points, to take a 70-54 lead.
The Colts still trailed by 14 with four minutes left, but Harris nailed a jumper and hit a layup before Hinke made a jumper from near the free-throw line. Harris’ layup then cut the deficit to 75-69.
A three-pointer by Taylor Slicklein (17 points) with 1:55 remaining was Kings Park’s final points of regulation. Baker’s three with 30.5 seconds left capped a 9-0 run and sent the game to overtime tied at 78.
Then, after watching the teams trade baskets in OT, Dugan made the call to take another risk.
Said Harris, “We practiced that play probably one time.”
As difficult as it was, it worked.