Baylor coach John Gibson would rather have a layup than a 3-pointer, but he's gotten to the point where he'll take what the opposing team is willling to give.
Facing arch-rival GPS at Baylor's Jimmy Duke Arena on Monday night, the Bruisers did an outstanding job of denying open looks inside, but the Lady Red Raiders made Plan B work just fine as they escaped with a hard-fought 66-62 victory.
Monday's victory was the third this season for Baylor over GPS, but this one was the closest of the three and came down to the final minute before Baylor prevailed.
While Baylor's inside game wasn't much of a factor, the Lady Raiders proved they can shoot from outside as they canned nine 3s for the game.
None were any bigger than the last one by sophomore Crosby Huckabay, who connected from the left wing with 17.2 seconds and broke a 61-61 tie.
Brooke McCurdy, a scrappy eighth-grader who you'll read a lot more about in the coming years, sank the first of two free throws with 5.5 seconds left before intentionally missing the second.
Baylor's Kaleigh Clemons grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 2.6 ticks remaining. She calmly swished both tosses to give her team a four-point edge as the Bruisers missed a half-court heave as the final buzzer sounded.
"We somehow found a way to win, but it's always a big win when it comes against your biggest rival in a region game," said Gibson moments after the game ended.
"There are a lot of games when we don't take nine 3s, but GPS didn't let us get it inside and they forced us to shoot from outside. It's tough to beat the same team three straight times, but GPS has greatly improved since we played them the first time in December.
"Those 3s got us back in the game and allowed us to win tonight," Gibson nodded after his team had improved to 17-8 overall and 4-2 in region play.
The Bruisers came within a whisker of pulling off their biggest win of the year, but critical mistakes at the end doomed their chance of an upset.
"I thought we had a chance to win until we threw it away at the end. You can't afford to make costly turnovers in a close game like this, but we just didn't take care of the basketball in critical situations," said GPS coach Jennifer "Curly" Williams after a quick talk with her team.
"I'm really pleased with our effort and I thought kids who came off the bench did a great job of doing what we asked. We made some adjustments on defense and did all we could, but Baylor was super hot from outside.
"You certainly can't tell from our region record, but we've been right in the thick of most every game. I'm just hoping that we can turn into that Cinderella team once the post-season begins," Williams added with a smile.
Akia Harris and Kara Ware both scored 20 points for the Bruisers, but Harris was limited to just two points in the fourth quarter when Baylor rallied from a five-point deficit.
Ware was a force on the inside all game as she had four points in each of the first three quarters before adding eight in the fourth.
Baylor had an 11-10 lead after the first quarter before and inside shot by Ware with 18 seconds remaining gave the Bruisers a 26-24 lead at the break.
A 3 from Huckabay with 2:25 to play in the third quarter gave Baylor a 41-38 lead, but GPS finished the stanza on a 10-2 run for a 48-43 lead with eight minutes remaining.
Clemons nailed a 3 to start the fourth quarter before Jutoryia Willis tied the score with a layup 30 seconds later. A putback by Clemons gave Baylor a 54-51 lead before Sydney Shutters tied with a 3 at the 4:13 mark.
The game was tied two more times, the last at 61-all. Harris had stolen the inbounds pass and scored on a short jumper from the baseline to knot the score with 42 seconds left and the Bruisers forced another turnover shortly afterward, only to watch as a bad pass gave the ball back to Baylor.
Huckabay then nailed her third 3 to give the Lady Raiders their final lead before Clemons put the icing on the cake with her two free throws.
While Harris and Ware were tops for GPS with 20 each, McCurdy followed with 10 and Shutters eight.
Mya Long, who had three of Baylor's nine 3s, finished with 17 points to lead the Lady Red Raiders in scoring while Abby Hubert followed with 15 points. Clemons finished with 13 points after having just four in the first three quarters. Huckabay was also in double figures with a dozen.
Baylor won the rebound battle by a 27-18 margin as Hubert grabbed nine for the Lady Raiders, including eight in the first half. Harris was tops for the Bruisers with seven while Reagan Williams snagged four.
Baylor's next game will be in Cleveland on Tuesday night against the Bradley Bearettes while GPS will play again on Friday night against Father Ryan.
GPS 10 16 22 14 -- 62
BAYLOR 11 13 19 23 -- 66
GPS (62) -- Harris 20, Shutters 8, Williams 2, Ware 20, Crownover, Morgan 2, Hudson, McCurdy 10.
BAYLOR (66) -- Clemons 13, Willis 5, Huckabay 12, Simpkins 2, Hubert 15, Looper, Smith, Long 17, Popp 2, McMahan.
3-POINT GOALS: GPS 7 (Harris 2, Shutters 2, McCurdy 3); Baylor 9 (Clemons 2, Willis, Huckabay 3, Long 3).
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)