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  • Jim Townsend

Ava Gruber Hits Buzzer Beating Three-Pointer to Keep Raiders Unbeaten

Any little boy or girl who has ever played basketball has likely run the scenario through their head dozens or even hundreds of times. Most have probably even acted it out in their driveway, when no one was watching. The clock ticks down, 3… 2… 1…, and the fate of your team is in your hands. You take the shot just as time expires to hit win the game for your team.

Portland Sophomore Ava Gruber had the chance to live out this scenario in front of her home crowd on Tuesday night against St. Johns. More on that to come on that later.

The Raiders got off to a horrible start at the beginning of the game. The Redwing’s scouting report appeared to be spot on, as they forced the Raiders into several uncharacteristic turnovers early in the game. St. Johns was also well aware that Portland’s Ashley Bower was a key to the Raiders offense, and every time she touched the ball in the first quarter, St. Johns Coach Mark Lasceski would shout, “SHOOTER!” Bower was held to only two points in the first.

Anyone who has watched the Raiders this year could see that the team was not playing their normal confident and aggressive style of basketball. St. Johns was quick to capitalize on Raider mistakes, and lead the Raiders 23-7 at the end of the first.

Raider Coach Jason Haid and his staff were able to help the Raiders get their composure back, and made some timely adjustments to start the second quarter. The shooting for the Raiders also picked up in the second, and the teams went to the halftime break with St. Johns leading 33-25.

The third quarter was basically a draw. Both teams battled hard and the Raiders were able to cut into the Redwing lead by one point. As the third quarter ended with St. Johns up 42-36.

The fourth quarter was when the Lady Raiders finally seemed to return fully to their normal selves. The in your face defense and diving on the floor hustle that had led them to victory in their first five games of the season seemed to return to the team.

With 7:02 left in the fourth quarter, a huge rebound by Portland’s Breckyn Werner led to a three-point basket by Bower to get the Raiders within one.

A pair of clutch free throws by Portland Senior Jolee Pung with 5:08 left in the game would tie the game for the first time at 44-44. The Raiders had trailed the whole game until this point.

The Redwings would quickly score to regain the lead. Raider Senior Lesley Barker was fouled shooting a three pointer and hit two of her three free throws to make the score St. Johns 49, Portland 47 with 2:30 left in the game.

Ave Gruber rebounded a Redwing shot and Portland’s Werner was able to score right down the middle of the Redwing defense to tie the game again, this time at 49 with 1:10 left in regulation.

The Redwings would hit a three pointer of their own with 40.6 seconds left in the game to regain the lead, 52-49, but Barker would hit two more free throws with 12.9 on the clock to put the score at 52-51.

Pung would pick up her fifth foul of the game to put St. Johns Senior Lauren Lasceski on the line. Lasceski would hit one of two free throws to make the score St. Johns 53, Portland 51.

With just 6.8 seconds left the Raiders fouled St, Johns Junior Lexi Martens. Martens would miss her first free throw and the Raiders would rebound and quickly take a time out.

With 5.1 seconds left the Raiders trailed by two, 53-51.

As the game resumed, the Raiders would inbound from the far end of the court. They quickly moved the ball down the court, and passed the ball to Ava Gruber in front of her team’s bench. Gruber would square to shoot, and as the final second ticked off the clock, Gruber would hit the game winning three-point basket.

Final score, Portland 54, St. Johns 53.

After the game, Ava Gruber said, “St. Johns was a really good team and coach set us up for the end. I just happened to hit the ending shot. Everyone did their part tonight in this game and played really good.”

Portland Coach Jason Haid said afterwards, “We knew St, Johns was a fast, athletic and aggressive team coming into this game. We tried to apply some pressure at the beginning of the game and it didn’t work out so well. We had to adjust to it. To our girls’ credit, they did. They did not get down on themselves. They (St. Johns) had a double-digit lead early and it looked like we just couldn’t play at their pace. We were able to change some things up defensively to slow them down. We got some steals and it helped our offense out a little bit. It gave us some confidence.”

Haid added, “That is how we climbed back in the game. We executed very well. Offensively, from last week to this week, I thought our kids were a lot more composed. We were moving the ball well. We just tried to crawl back as best we could and keep cutting into that lead each and every quarter after the first. We were able to get within striking distance in the fourth, and just stay positive and kept cracking away and we found ourselves right in it there at the end and we were able to finish the game.”

Score by quarter:

1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – Final

Portland 7 – 18 – 11 – 18 - 54

Saint Johns 23 – 10 – 9 – 11 - 53

Leading scorers for the Raiders were Ashley Bower with 19, Ava Gruber with 14, and Jolee Pung with 7. Grace Sines contributed 6, Lesley Barker 4, while Jada Walton and Breckyn Werner each had 2.

Rachel Rustad was the top scorer for the redwings with 15, while Lauren Lasceski had 12.

The Lady Raiders move to 6-0 on the season. Their next game is Friday night at Eaton Rapids.

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