DIXON – A horrible start turned into something quite wonderful for Dixon in its final game of the 40th annual Dixon Holiday Tournament on Friday in Lancaster Gymnasium.
The Duchesses dug themselves a big early hole, but clawed their way back to post a 42-38 win against Byron in the event’s seventh-place game. Dixon (15-3) split four tournament games, while Byron (6-7) went 1-3.
The Tigers’ trapping 1-3-1 defense gave Dixon fits early. At one point, the Duchesses had five turnovers and one shot attempt – and that was an airball from Avery Fox – as Byron raced out to an 11-0 lead.
“Byron’s got a tremendous scheme, and it’s something that’s really hard to mock up in practice,” Dixon coach Luke Ravlin said. “We haven’t practiced in 3 days, so we came out and dug ourselves a hole, but that was the best part about it. We kept fighting and were able to dig ourselves out.”
The Duchesses closed within 19-16 by halftime, and caught the Tigers at 22-22 on a putback by Zoe Carr with 1 minute, 25 seconds left in the third quarter.
Dixon’s lead grew to as many as nine points (39-30) after back-to-back 3-pointers by Abby Guthrie and Britney Pitzer, with Pitzer’s coming at the 1:50 mark of the fourth quarter.
Byron, however, was far from done. The Tigers went on an 8-1 run, with Meghan McCarey starting it with a layup and finishing it with a 3 to draw her team within 40-38 with 29.1 seconds on the clock.
After a Dixon turnover, Byron had more chances. McCarey missed a layup and the Duchesses’ Kira Goral grabbed the rebound, but was whistled for traveling with 9.4 seconds on the clock.
After a Dixon foul, Byron had one more opportunity with 5.7 seconds to go. Head coach Eric Yerly drew up a play that seemed to work perfectly, as the ball was inbounded to Tamya Vaultonburg for an uncontested layup, but another Tiger, Emmi Keller, was called for an illegal screen.
“I did not see what happened,” Yerly said. “[The official] refs a ton of our games, so I trust his call. I’m assuming the official made the right call. I’ll go back and watch film. I joked around with him a little bit afterward, and said I’d let him know if he missed it or not.”
Two free throws from Pitzer with 4.9 seconds to go sealed Dixon’s win.
“Give them credit,” Yerly said. “We came out with a fury, but they just kept grinding, got back into it and took the lead. Our kids made a run at the end and didn’t give up.”
Dixon won largely due to the contributions it received from the bench. Reserves accounted for 23 of 42 points, and half of the squad’s 24 rebounds.
“We’ve got a bench full of kids that are ready to come in and play, and play their role,” Ravlin said. “Our entire team puts their heart and soul into every game, so they’re ready when the time comes. I think that’s one of the things that makes us strong.”
Leading the way for the Dixon reserves was Guthrie, who hit 5 of 6 shots, including all three of her 3-pointers, to score 13 points.
“Once the game went on, I just felt more relaxed, and let it go after that,” Guthrie said.
Carr grabbed a team-high six rebounds and scored four points, while Madelyn Chesley hit both of her shots to score four points. The other Dixon sub, Caylyn Kimmel, added a pair of free throws, which was half of her team’s first-quarter point total.
Pitzer led all scorers with 15 points, and she also grabbed four rebounds.
Dixon and Byron will meet again in Big Northern play on Friday, Feb. 2 in Byron.
“When we play Byron again, I think it will give us more confidence to know that we can beat them,” Guthrie said.
Vaultonburg led the Tigers with 13 points and six rebounds, while Ralee Corkran added 11 points and four boards. McCarey scored all eight of her points in the second half to fuel the Byron comeback.
Dixon Holiday Tournament, 7th-place game
Dixon 42, Byron 38
Star of the game: Britney Pitzer, Dixon, 15 points, 4 rebounds
Key performers: Abby Guthriem, Dixon, 13 points, 3 rebounds; Tamya Vaultonburg, Byron, 13 points, 6 rebounds
Up next: Freeport at Dixon, 7 p.m. Wednesday