It simply came down to being one of those games won by the team that had the ball last.
Erin Brinkmeyer scooped up a loose ball underneath her own basket with the score tied and time running out at the end of regulation and the junior guard scored on a buzzer-beating layup to give the Douglas High School girls a dramatic 55-53 victory against Carson on Saturday.
Douglas rallied from five points down inside the final five minutes to pull out a win between arch rivals that came into the game at Morse Burley Gymnasium tied for second-place in the Sierra League standings. The Tigers improved their record to 5-1 (14-7 overall), while Carson dropped to 4-2 (13-8).
What was the difference? Douglas coach Werner Christen didn't hesitate in his answer.
"There was no difference," he said. "This was just two evenly matched teams and we happened to get a lucky bounce and made a shot at the end."
It also happened to be a memorable win for the Tigers.
"This is the first time I've beaten Carson here, and to the best of my knowledge, it's the first time the Douglas girls have ever beaten Carson here," said Christen, whose Tigers lost to Reno in double overtime in the Northern 4A Regional Tournament finals at Morse Burley Gymnasium last year.
Even though the Senators saw a lead and game get away in the fourth quarter for the second time in as many nights, coach Alana Williams was encouraged by their performance on the court.
"The kids played hard," said Williams, whose Senators lost 58-51 at Reno on Friday. "The majority of the game, I thought they played as well as they could play. I thought they did a lot better job tonight running the offense and moving the ball. I thought they played really good team ball."
The game-winning shot was set up when Douglas inbounded the ball with the score tied 53-53 and 8.5 seconds showing on the clock. Point guard Tammy Gough took the ball and passed to Britney Puzey on the left wing. Puzey's shot from the 3-point arc didn't hit anything, but as the ball bounced up and over the baseline, Brinkmeyer went up and batted it back into play. The ball went straight to Carson's Katie Kotter, who turned to dribble, only to run into Puzey, and the ball squirted back toward Brinkmeyer underneath the basket.
Even for those who heard the final buzzer, there was doubt whether Brinkmeyer's basket would count or whether the game would continue into overtime. The Local Sports Program's video replay showed conclusively that Brinkmeyer's basket beat the buzzer.
"Brit had a good look, she just missed the shot," Christen said. "Somehow, we kept the ball alive and it bounced to Erin. We were lucky for once."
Brinkmeyer finished with a game-high 17 points, including three of the six 3-pointers Douglas knocked down, and Julie Gingrich also scored 15 points. Puzey scored 13, including 11-for-14 shooting from the free throw line. The Tigers shot 19-for-28 from the line as a team, compared to Carson's 13-for-18.
Kotter scored 16 points to go with seven steals and six rebounds for Carson. Ciarra Christian had 12 points and five assists and Nicole Scott added 12 points before fouling out in the fourth quarter.
Kotter and Christian led the way as Carson scored six unanswered points in the final 1:16 of the third quarter to take a 45-38 lead into the final period. First, Christian drove down the middle of the lane for a layup, then the senior guard drove and dished to Andrea Hoff, who dropped in a baseline jumper. Next, Kotter came up with a steal on the defensive end and fed Christian for a layup to complete the run.
Brinkmeyer buried a 3-pointer from the left side to start the fourth quarter and Puzey later knocked down six free throws without a miss to pull the Tigers back into contention.
The lead changed hands three times in the final minute. Puzey's two free throws gave Douglas a 51-50 lead with 1:03 remaining. Tabitha Adams scored on a layup, assisted by Christian, to put Carson on top 52-51 with 50 seconds remaining. And Gingrich scored on a putback to give Douglas a 53-52 lead with 39.1 seconds left. Hoff tied it at 53 when she sank the second of two free throws with 27.9 seconds left.
"Anytime you play Alana's team, you know it's going to be a war," Christen said. "We were just fortunate tonight."
Notes ... The Carson-Douglas girls and boys games can be seen on The Local Sports Program Monday at 8:30 p.m. in Carson and on Tuesday night in the Carson Valley.