CALEDONIA — A berth in the Valley Tournament final seemed increasingly unlikely for the West County girls basketball team Thursday night, following a frustrating five-minute scoreless drought to punctuate regulation.
But disruptive defense helped the smaller Lady Bulldogs turn aside several threats from opposing Viburnum down the stretch, and four forced turnovers in double overtime sealed an exhausting 48-45 triumph.
Sophomore guards Katie Gettinger and Paige Forshee each scored 15 points to pace the Lady Bulldogs (2-0), who will challenge top-seeded Bismarck in the championship game on Saturday night.
In a contest that saw West County struggle mightily at the free-throw line, making just 11-of-30 attempts, a diagonal bounce pass in tight space from Forshee to Gettinger yielded the decisive basket with 49 seconds remaining.
Gettinger sprinted back to prevent a potential Viburnum layup moments later after Paige Mayfield intercepted an errant pass near midcourt. However, the Lady Jays still controlled the ensuing inbounds play.
Viburnum produced the look that it designed following a timeout, but suffered another of several missed shots from point-blank range. Two insurance free throws from Jordan Moll capped the frenetic outcome.
Sophomore Lauren Callahan tallied 11 points and 13 rebounds in the victory before fouling out. Her pair of third-quarter putbacks extended the Lady Bulldogs’ narrow lead to 31-26.
Viburnum (1-1) came up empty on six straight possessions after trailing 37-35 with 5:02 left in the fourth quarter, but finally pulled even when Nikki Bozic stole the ball and dribbled the length of the court for a layup.
Bozic netted 10 points with 12 rebounds and seven blocks, and began the second extra session with an attacking left-handed finish after teammate Rebekah Olkkonen concluded the first with two clutch free throws.
Mayfield connected three times from 3-point distance while finishing with a team-high 15 points. Her first triple highlighted a modest 7-0 spurt that gave Viburnum a 10-8 advantage after one quarter.
Olkkonen played a strong second half to record her own double-double with 11 points and 12 boards. The Lady Jays finished with 24 turnovers, and will meet Lesterville in Saturday’s third-place game.
West County 8 14 9 6 5 6 – 48
Viburnum 10 8 10 9 5 3 – 45
West County – Forshee 15, Gettinger 15, Callahan 11, A Dane 3, Richards 2, Mull 2. 3-point FG – A Dane.
Viburnum – Mayfield 15, Olkkonen 11, Bozic 10, Morton 4, LaRue 3, Francis 2. 3-point FG – Mayfield 3.