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'Freebies' do job for Bulldogs

December 21, 2005|By DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - It's the easiest shot in basketball, that straightaway, 15-foot set shot otherwise known as a free throw.

However, when the game is in the final seconds and those free throws are the difference between victory and defeat - and also happen to be the first shots a player attempts all game - they become anything but easy.

That's what made Martinsburg junior Nicole Peterson's four points against Jefferson in Tuesday night's Apple Valley League girls basketball game so meaningful.

Given two 1-and-1 opportunities in the closing seconds, with Martinsburg leading by a single point each time, Peterson calmly hit all four shots, helping the Bulldogs claim a 43-40 victory over the Cougars.

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"I was scared," said Peterson, though it never showed. "I was trying not to look at the score or the crowd and just focus."

"She stepped up," Martinsburg coach Beth Sedlar said. "She's mentally tough, and I like that."

Katie Danno's two free throws with 35 seconds left got Jefferson (2-2, 1-1) within a point at 39-38, before Peterson made her first two free throws with 27.4 seconds left.

Dakeea Marshall's putback of a short 3-point attempt with 12 seconds left cut the lead to one again, but after the Bulldogs killed eight seconds inbounding and holding the ball, Peterson went back to the line and hit the biggest two shots of the game to push the lead back to three, and the Cougars failed to get a possible game-tying shot off before the buzzer.

Martinsburg (2-0, 1-0) never trailed in a game filled with fouls (more than 50 total) and turnovers (58 total, 50 through the first three quarters), making finding a rhythm next to impossible for both teams.

Iesha Robinson scored 11 of her team-high 13 points in the first half, helping the Bulldogs take a 21-16 halftime lead.

Jefferson (2-2, 1-1) rallied to tie the game at 27-27 after three quarters, making the most out of Danno's 12 second-half points to make a game of it. Danno finished with a game-high 14 points and the Cougars' defense forced Martinsburg into 2-for-19 shooting in the third quarter.

"We were right there knocking at the door," Jefferson coach Peachie Diehl said. "The kids played hard and played with tenacity, and they've been doing that."

The Bulldogs snapped out of their shooting slump by making 6 of 14 attempts in the final eight minutes. Rachel Hull scored all 10 of her points in the second half, and Martinsburg found a way to stay just one small step ahead of Jefferson until the final buzzer.

"I think it's important for us to jump on people early and get an early lead," Sedlar said. "We got stagnant in the third quarter and that early lead helped us."

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