HALSEY — For a few suspenseful moments, Mirtha Lopez was certain she had just won her team a league title in spectacular fashion.
Lopez, a senior point guard for the Monroe High girls basketball team, buried a running shot from half court as the final buzzer sounded Tuesday that would have served as the game-winner for the Dragons against Central Linn — but the shot was waived off by referees, and Monroe was suddenly thrust into overtime against the No. 3 team in the state.
“I honestly thought I got it off,” Lopez said with a smile.
As it turned out, Lopez and the Dragons only needed to wait a four-minute overtime period to get their win. Monroe topped the Cobras 51-40 to take a commanding lead in the Central Valley Conference title race. With a win in the regular-season finale on Friday, the Dragons (18-5, 12-1) will lock up their sixth consecutive league championship.
“They didn’t count that shot, so it kind of got us mad,” Monroe coach Tony Parker said. “When we got into overtime it really fueled our fire and we went out and got it.”
Monroe got a game-high 18 points from Lopez, including five in an overtime period in which the Dragons outscored the Cobras 15-4.
When the two teams met in Monroe back in January, Central Linn topped the Dragons 43-40 in a game that also went to overtime. The Dragons have not lost since that game.
You have free articles remaining.
“We were super motivated after that,” Lopez said. “It just set a fire in us and we were like this is where it starts. We've been excited ever since we lost.”
The Cobras, who would have won the league title outright with a victory, fall to 19-3 on the season and 11-2 in Central Valley play. After falling behind by as many as 13 point early on, the Cobras came to life in the third quarter, outscoring the Dragons 14-8 during that period.
“We finally hit some shots against their zone and it got us fired up a little bit,” Central Linn coach Marcus Campbell said. “But we just dug ourselves too big of a hole late. … We told our girls just now that this might be a good thing. We don’t wanna have this feeling down in the team room again.”
Trailing 23-11 at halftime, the Cobras raced back to tie the game at 33-33 with 1:29 to go in the third quarter when Gracie Robb stole a pass and went the length of the court for an and-one finish.
The two teams traded baskets before Ashley Sutton buried a free throw with 12 seconds to go to give Monroe the lead. At the other end, Central Linn freshman Gemma Rowland sank a clutch free throw of her own to tie the game for the Cobras.
That set the stage for Lopez’s would-be game-winning shot. Once the game reached overtime, Monroe took immediate hold of the game and got a pair of quick baskets from Chloe May and then a pair of free throws from Sutton. Then, over the final two minutes, they went 9 for 10 from the free-throw line to close out the game.
“I’m super proud,” Parker said of his team's ability to close out the game. “That was one of the things at the beginning of the season that we couldn’t handle. We couldn’t handle the pressure and we would start falling apart. We’ve really done a good job of staying together and believing in ourselves and doing this as a group.”
Monroe will close out the season at home against East Linn Christian on Friday, while the Cobras will host Regis.