Both Bellevue Public high schools girls basketball teams entered Friday night’s rivalry game with a 7-5 record on the season, foreshadowing a very evenly-matched contest on Jan 22.
The lady Chieftains put the pressure on early as Mya Skoff and company got off to a hot start on both sides of the ball, East controlled an 11-6 lead over the T-Birds after the first quarter. The game would quickly evolve into a one-on-one show as Skoff poured in six points during the second quarter and West’s Taryn Wharton started to roll. Wharton hit a big three-ball just before the halftime buzzer to cut the Chieftain lead to two before half, 20-18.
Despite the intermission Skoff picked up right where she left off scoring seven points during the Chieftains’ 11-2 run to start the third quarter. Wharton would continue to answer with triples, hitting two in the last two minutes of the third, one with six seconds remaining in the quarter, to cut the Chieftains’ lead to 34-26 at the start of the fourth.
Like clockwork, Wharton would open up the scoring for the T-Birds in the fourth by hitting yet another triple right out of the gates. The T-Birds defense began to stiffen in the fourth and Wharton hit another three, snagged a steal and an easy lay-up in transition to tie the game at 34 a piece. Skoff came up big during clutch-time for East, she answered Wharton’s lay-up with a trip to the free-throw line and hit both to give her team a two-point lead midway through the fourth. Both teams would go back-and-forth for a while before a bad offensive foul on West’s Dani Peterson that sent the Chieftains back to the free-throw line.
After hitting both free-throws East finally found some breathing room with a 45-39 lead and only 3:09 left on the game clock but the T-Birds never lost their composure. Wharton hit two monster threes in a 60-second span to tie it up at 45 with 1:50 left in the game. East turned the ball over on the next position and did the absolute last thing you should do by leaving Wharton open for another triple which she hit with 1:12 remaining. West’s 48-45 lead was short-lived, Skoff went coast-to-coast for an old-fashioned, three-point play to tie it up again.
With 32 seconds remaining and the ball in Wharton’s hands, she would make a costly mistake with a dangerous pass down-low to turn it over.
The Chieftains’ next possession, following a timeout, led to Skoff getting fouled on a shot in the paint with 6.4 seconds left on the clock.
With the game still tied and immense pressure, Skoff would shoot two free-throws to possibly decide the game.
Skoff missed the first but nailed the second, giving East a 49-48 lead with time on their side.
The Thunderbirds attempted an in-bounds play to give Wharton an open look at the rim but the Chieftains only allowed her a mid-range floater that fell short at the buzzer.
Skoff’s career night ended with 29 points, four rebounds and two assists, she shot 53% from the field and was 7/8 from the free-throw line. East’s Baylee Eagan also had a nice performance with six points, an impressive 21 boards and two assists. Wharton finished with a game-high 32 points, hitting 10 of 17 three-pointers, five rebounds and two assists. T-Birds’ Dani Peterson finished with a well-rounded five points, six boards and two assists.
After Friday’s rivalry game the Thunderbirds fell to 7-6 but was able to bounce back the next night against a sub-par Millard West team in a “get-right” game.
The Chieftains improved to 8-5 after the Battle for Bellevue on Friday and then fell short against an impressive Omaha Central team on Saturday, 57-69 to give them a record of 8-6 after the weekend.