POLO – Once the Prophetstown Prophets got hot, there was little the Oregon Hawks could do to slow them down.
And once the Hawks started a frantic comeback, all the Prophets did was hit 12 of their 13 free throws over the final 3½ minutes to seal their second win over Oregon this season.
Prophetstown dominated the second quarter at the Polo Tournament on Thursday night, then held off Oregon for a 66-53 victory.
"Once one person starts hitting shots, it's like a spark for the rest of the team," Prophetstown junior guard Heather Strike said. "When we get shots to fall, it gets us more pumped up to play better defense, and that just leads to more offense."
Strike was just the spark the Prophets (11-2) needed. After seeing several good looks rim out in the first quarter, Prophetstown scored the final four points of the first quarter and first six points of the second to turn a 17-8 deficit into an 18-17 lead.
After Emy Wright's pull-up jumper put the Hawks (8-4) back in front, Strike's 3-pointer gave Prophetstown a 21-19 lead. Karlie Stafford nailed a 3 on the Prophets' next possession, then Strike hit two more in the next two offensive trips for a 30-19 lead, forcing an Oregon timeout.
"Once we get the lead, we just try and keep it going," said Stafford, a senior forward who led the Prophets with 20 points and 13 rebounds. "We just tried to keep our heads up, and then get the ball to whoever was hot. We knocked down some shots, then played good defense."
The defense forced 10 second-quarter Oregon turnovers – 24 in the game – and was a big part of Prophetstown's 26-5 run over the final 8:28 of the first half.
But the Hawks weren't done yet. Trailing 34-22 after Stafford's shot after the halftime buzzer was counted as good, Oregon saw the deficit grow to 18 points (47-29) midway through the third quarter.
But after a 2-minute scoring drought for both teams, it was the Hawks' turn to catch fire. Megan Boehle's 3 and Kelsey Pudlas' bucket in the lane closed the third period, then McKaylee Beeter's fourth 3 of the night was a deep one that opened the fourth.
Sam Lambrigtsen's coast-to-coast fast-break layup and Wright's putback followed, and the Oregon deficit was five (47-42) with 6:37 to play.
"We were a little shaken up in the first half, and we know we played a really bad second quarter," said Beeter, who finished with 14 points. "But we got it back together, and when we got to within five points, we all really thought we had it."
But the Prophets had the answer. Clare Kramer's post basket stopped the Hawks' 13-0 run, then Strike hit her fifth and final 3 of the night to restore order. Lambrigtsen and Wright scored back-to-back to get within six (54-48) with 2:09 to go, but that's when the Prophets put on their free-throw shooting clinic to close things out.
"We know that's a really good team, and we knew we had to play with more intensity and want it more than they did if we were going to win," Stafford said. "Everyone on this team played a big part – and played it well – for us tonight."
Strike had 19 points, seven assists and three steals, and Kramer added 12 points and seven rebounds. Corrie Reiley finished with eight points – all from the free-throw line – and dished five assists while nabbing a game-high seven steals.
Lambrigtsen led Oregon with 18 points and six steals, and Wright chipped in nine points, five steals and three assists.
"We just have to learn from this," Beeter said, "and I think we learn more from a loss to a good team than a blowout win. All four of our losses are to the same two teams – Prophetstown and Mendota – and we just have to make some adjustments when we play good teams like that."
Prophetstown 66, Oregon 53
Star of the game: Karlie Stafford, Prophetstown, 20 points, 13 rebounds
Key performers: Heather Strike, Prophetstown, 19 points, 7 assists, 3 steals; Clare Kramer, Prophetstown, 12 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists; Sam Lambrigtsen, Oregon, 18 points, 6 steals; McKaylee Beeter, Oregon, 14 points; Emy Wright, Oregon, 9 points, 5 steals, 3 assists
Up next: Polo tournament – 3rd-place game, Oregon vs. Morrison, 2:30 p.m.; championship, Prophetstown vs. Byron, 3:45 p.m., both Saturday