GILBERT — The dreaded dry spell.
It’s a problem that has plagued the Williams High School girls basketball team in losses this season and it crept up again in the first round of the Class 2A State Tournament.
Tombstone went on a 16-0 run in which the Lady Vikings failed to score over a 6 1/2-minute period. The team could not overcome the deficit and exited the tournament with a 57-48 loss to the Yellow Jackets at Mesquite High in Gilbert.
“We kind of panicked. We started forcing it and that’s not our style,” Williams coach Lorenzo Rodriguez said. “We missed about eight layups in the first half.”
Williams did seem to be excited coming out of the gate. Although the girls held the lead after the first quarter and played well on defense, the Lady Vikings missed out on several scoring opportunities with unforced errors.
“The defense was working,” Rodriguez said. “We just didn’t get the shots to fall.”
Williams opened the game in exciting style when Lyssa Mulvihill nailed a three-pointer to give the Vikes an early lead. Ashley Rocha hit a jumpshot at the 4:38 mark for a 5-2 WHS lead.
Neither team scored much in the game’s first four minutes. The players on both teams seemed to be nervous and shots were being forced.
After falling behind 8-5, Mulvihill came up with another three-pointer to tie the score. A Beth Harris bankshot off the glass and a Melissa Pettit free throw gave the team an 11-9 lead as the first-quarter buzzer sounded.
“We weren’t used to their zone to start,” Tombstone coach Shawn Schroeder said about the early going.
The two teams traded hoops to begin the second quarter and after the Yellow Jackets had taken a 15-13 lead, Mulvihill came up with another three-pointer.
Tombstone’s Melissa Gouchie, who had 23 points, scored a basket, was fouled and made a free throw for an 18-16 lead.
Williams came right back to tie the score again on a basket by Rocha.
But that would be it until the 6:41 mark of the third quarter. Tombstone began its run and knocked some life out of the Viking girls.
“That was pretty much it,” Schroeder said. “We took the game over at that point. I think they relaxed a little with the double-digit lead.”
Although Gouchie did damage all day, baskets by Sue McIntosh and Christina Collett in the final 2:45 of the quarter turned a two-point game into a 12-point halftime lead for the Yellow Jackets.
Coming out after the intermission, Williams knew they would need to make up some ground in the third quarter if they planned on having a shot at a win.
But Gouchie, who stands 6-foot-1, got her game going big time in the third and scored twice in the first 45 seconds to put her team up by 16.
Rocha hit a shot with 6:41 left in the third to break the scoreless streak. However, every time Williams would seem to get some momentum going, the Yellow Jackets would respond with a hoop of their own.
Mandy Harrison scored 12 seconds after Rocha and the lead increased to 18 after another Gouchie basket at the 5:20 mark.
A three-pointer by Dee Dee Fogg moments later cut into the deficit. A foul was called, Williams got the ball right back and Mulvihill scored for a five-point swing.
Again, Tombstone responded and came right back with a 5-0 run to up the lead to 18 once again.
Williams’ Pettit hit two free throws and Amy Christman scored to again bring the Vikings some momentum.
But the relentless Yellow Jacket attack continued and the 18-point was back within a few minutes.
Tombstone took a 49-31 lead into the fourth quarter.
In those final eight minutes, Williams cut the deficit in half but could get no closer than nine, which was at the final buzzer.
Pettit opened the fourth with an exciting play, coming away with a steal and then scoring.
After a Gouchie hoop, Williams’ Rocha drew a foul on a shot attempt and sank both free throws.
Chances at a fourth quarter miracle seemed to slip away in the next couple of minutes. Williams didn’t score again until the 4:48 mark on a Mulvihill hoop. The Yellow Jacket lead was 16 points at the time.
In the final 3 1/2 minutes, Pettit scored on a long pass from Mulvihill, Christman hit a free throw, Harris scored a basket, Mulvihill hit a shot and Hillary Wamble scored on a layup.
Mulvihill’s final basket with 15 seconds left gave her 15 points for the game. In her two state playoff games, the sophomore has averaged 13 points per game (11 last year vs. Palo Verde Christian).
Wamble’s basket came right before the buzzer.
Rocha, another sophomore, had one of her better games this season with 10 points. Dee Dee Fogg played well and was above her season average with five points.
The Yellow Jackets held Williams’ other two big guns — Harris and Pettit — below their season averages. Pettit finished with seven and Harris had six.
Along with Gouchie’s 23, other top scorers for Tombstone were McIntosh with 12 and Collett with 10.
“Ashley played aggressive today,” Rodriguez said. “Lyssa had a hot start. Melissa had some good steals.”
It was the final game for Harris and Pettit, both seniors. Nicole Kimball is another senior who will not be back next year.
Williams ends the season with a 16-13 record.
Tombstone (19-8) advanced to the next game and was soundly defeated by Thatcher, 54-36. Thatcher is one of four teams remaining after winning a quarterfinal game in double overtime over Valley Christian, 60-59.
The Canyon Region had two other teams represented in the state tournament and both of those schools exited in the first round as well.
Sedona Red Rock suffered a 59-52 loss to Miami. Orme was whipped by Desert Christian, 47-30.
Desert Christian is one of the four teams still alive. The state champion will be crowned Saturday.