EPAC Girls: Grady rallies back to beat Vixens

By Kevin Wilson

At first glance, a proper title for Grady’s EPAC girls title could be “I Love the 80s Strikes Back: 1987,” referring to the last time the Lady Bronchos won the annual tournament.
However, a more accurate title might be, “Survivor: Greyhound Arena,” a testament to an incredible two-game run by Grady, capped off by Saturday’s 53-52 overtime win over Fort Sumner.
Grady (11-3) needed a double-overtime win in Friday’s semifinal against Texico just to be in the title game.
Jennifer and Heather Blackburn scored 16 and 14 points, respectively, to lead Grady to victory in the title game.
“It’s big for us,” said Grady coach Alicia Rush, who was a seventh-grader when the Lady Bronchos last won EPAC. “It’s been a long time.”
Through three quarters, it looked like it would be one year longer for Grady.
Fort Sumner seemed to have matters in hand after three quarters, leading 31-21. A 3-pointer by Laurel Herrera at the end of the third gave Fort Sumner its biggest lead of the night, but it only served to set the stage for a shocking comeback.
“I just told the girls that us beating them (in December) was a fluke,” Grady coach Alicia Rush said. “They had to prove it wasn’t.”
The Lady Bronchos responded, hitting 3-of-5 3-pointers in the final quarter and getting every bounce they needed as well.
Jennifer and Heather Blackburn each missed jumpers on Grady’s final possession in regulation time, as the Vixens tried to hold on to a 46-44 lead. After Heather Blackburn’s miss, Brittany Bailey tracked down the offensive rebound and fired it to Taris Pond, who was wide open for the tying bucket as three Vixens went for the rebound.
Fort Sumner (9-4) missed three chances to close it out in regulation with a missed 3-pointer by Sandy Fortner, and missed a pair of chances to win in the game’s final five seconds.
Behind the speedy Fortner, who led all players with 22 points and 11 rebounds, Fort Sumner came close to winning its first girls EPAC title. Coach Brian Fortner felt they came up two feet short.
“We can’t hit 2-foot shots,” Fortner said. “We hit 2-foot shots, we’re undefeated.”
The Vixens shot 20-of-61 on the night, and had a pair of misses sting them late in overtime. After Stephanie Bailey missed a pair of free throws and failed to extend on a one-point lead, Lindsay Mansell (11 points) missed a layup.
Grady gave Fort Sumner one final chance with an errant inbound pass with 0.9 seconds left, but an 8-foot attempt by Mansell was short.
Fort Sumner will play Texico Tuesday, while Grady returns to action Thursday against Melrose.