DIXON – In a game decided in the final minute, featuring a barely negligible difference in total team stats, the little things kill. Or create new life, if you're a Dixon Duchess.
Kacie Dillow and Maggie Bushman both hit a pair of free throws down the stretch, and Carly Hartle made two plays that won't show up in the box score to deliver a 39-36 Dixon victory over LaSalle-Peru on Tuesday at Lancaster Gym.
Dillow, a senior guard, splashed her freebies with 33.4 seconds left to give Dixon (9-14, 4-4 Northern Illinois Big 12 West) a 37-35 lead.
"There's a time when I'd think, 'All right, this is crucial. This is the end of the game. I've really got to make these. We're tied,' " said Dillow, who finished with 10 points, three rebounds and two steals. "But I hit a point where I thought, 'Relax. You can do this.' "
On the other end, Hartle poked an entry pass intended for Ellie Senica out of bounds. When the Cavaliers (9-13, 2-6) got the sophomore post the ball off the inbounds, Hartle forced an airball.
The Duchesses swarmed fellow sophomore post Hannah Wolfe on the rebound and tied her up to gain possession on the jump ball.
Bushman, a sophomore guard, drew a foul down low and hit her throws. Even if the first rattled against virtually every inch of the iron, she wasn't fazed.
"That was one of the better times I handled pressure," Bushman said. "I wanted to make those for the team.
"When we fight for our wins, it makes us all grow together. We're a very close team, but wins like these make us even closer."
The Cavs got one more freebie, but fell short yet again at Lancaster.
"Dixon has our number, for whatever reason," L-P coach Hollis Vickery said.
Dixon enjoyed a 32-30 rebound edge, and both teams shot 11-for-30 from the 2-point range and hit two 3s (Dixon 2-for-6, L-P 2-for-10).
A lackluster first half that ended with Dixon up 12-11 saw both teams shoot 4-for-18 from the field. Struggling with her shot, Dixon junior Brooke Bailey (18 points on 6-for-16 shooting, 7 rebounds, 4 assists) turned to playmaking. She found Taylor Colby with a slick block-to-block feed for a bunny that built a 16-11 lead.
"Brooke's a phenomenal passer, and she's able to draw defenses and set up her teammates with timely, on-target passes," "She makes her teammates better, and it's really a blessing to have a player who can do that."
Darianne Edwards took notes. She received another great Bailey find down low and made an extra interior pass to Hartle for another zero-footer that made it 20-15 with 2:25 left in the third.
After Mia Porter hit a 3 to close to 20-18, Edwards got on the floor for an offensive board. Bushman missed the ensuing jumper, but Bailey grabbed a second reload and went lefty, high off the glass with contact. She made the free throw, but LaSalle-Peru scored inside to hang in there down 23-20 after three.
The Cavs reclaimed the lead for the first time since being up 9-8 early in the second when Wolfe (8 points, 11 rebounds) hit two free throws to make it 24-23.
Dixon built a 33-28 lead when Kari Wolfe dug out an offensive board. She reset the offense before finding Dillow – who missed the initial jumper – down low.
Two Cavs possessions later, senior Brianna Argubright (7 points, 4 rebounds) converted a three-point play to draw even at 33. Bailey swished a one-and-one trip to the line, and the Cavs answered with a Madison Heid jumper. You know the rest.
"We just need to pull out games like this," Argubright said. "We seem to lose our offense sometimes. That can't happen in the last 2 minutes of the game."
"If you're going to beat the competition we play on a regular basis, you've gotta be ready to play under pressure," Dixon coach Luke Ravlin said. "There's no way to teach that. You've got to experience it."
Star of the game: Brooke Bailey, Dixon, 18 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists
Key performer: Kacie Dillow, Dixon, 10 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, game-winning FTs with 33.4 seconds left; Hannah Wolfe, L-P, 8 points, 11 rebounds, block
Up next: Dixon at Princeton, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday