Benny Munoz/The Madera Tribune
The Madera Coyotes girls basketball team celebrates an overtime victory over Dinuba on Wednesday in the first round of the Div. III Central Section playoffs.
Madera Coyotes girls basketball senior Sofia Perez helped send her team into the Div. II Central Section quarterfinals with clutch shots for a 50-46 overtime victory over Dinuba in Joe Flores Gym.
The seventh-seeded Coyotes outscored the 10th-seeded Emperors 10-6 in the overtime period to advance Wednesday. Madera’s season ended Friday in a loss to No. 2 seed Arvin.
“We wanted to give that game away from almost three quarters,” head coach Jason Smith said. “I didn’t recognize who they were. They lost their assignments on defense, forgot what they needed to do defensively, freaked out with the basketball. At the end of the day, they had the heart of a champion and came through when the moments counted the most.”
Perez scored 10 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, including a 3-pointer to send the game in overtime and another to give the Coyotes the lead in overtime.
“Sofia Perez was absolutely amazing down the stretch,” Smith said. “She hasn’t been shooting the ball well down the stretch. She looked at me and I told her to keep shooting the ball.”
“Those were the biggest shots of my life,” Perez said. “I wasn’t thinking about shooting. I was just trying to score. Early in the game, my shots were completely off, but I think I was overthinking everything. Towards the end of the game, it was make or break so I went up and shot like how I did during the season. That’s what I did.”
Cathy Figueroa led the Coyotes with 13 points while Perez scored 12. Kaylee Patlan added nine points.
“Kaylee has been the biggest bright spot for most of the second half of league,” Smith said. “She got more under control and attacked the basket like we asked her. Tonight, she hit some big shots in the first half to keep us in the game.”
One of the major differences in the game was decided at the free throw line. Madera was 13-of-22 from the line (59 percent). However, Dinuba was worse, going 4-of-13 (31 percent) from the charity stripe.
Dinuba jumped out to the early 4-0 lead, but Patlan made a layup and 16-foot jumper to tie the game.
Dinuba then put back a miss and hit a 3-pointer for a five-point lead.
Figueroa found Patlan for a layup, hit a 3-pointer and found Andrea Garcia for another layup to tie the game at 11 at the end of the first quarter.
The Emperors scored the first four points of the second quarter before Garcia hit a pull-up five footer.
More than two minutes went by before either team scored before Camile Nunez made a pair of free throws to tie the score at 15.
Figueroa found Perez for a 10-foot jumper for a two-point lead. Dinuba closed the first half with a 3-point play and a layup for a 22-17 lead.
Nunez turned a rebound into a layup to open the second half scoring. The Emperors followed with a layup. Almost two more minutes went by before either team scored with the Emperors making a layup for a seven-point lead.
Patlan made a pair of free throws, but the Emperors scored four more points to extend the lead to nine.
Figueroa cut the lead to six with a 3-point play and Nunez drove in for a bucket to cut the lead to 30-26.
Dinuba made a layup and two more free throws to extend the lead back to eight. After BriAnn Houghton made a pair of free throws, Dinuba extended the lead to nine with a 3-pointer.
Madera began its comeback with a 3-pointer from Figueroa off a pass from Houghton for a six-point Dinuba lead at the end of the third quarter.
After Dinuba made a free throw to open the fourth quarter, Madera received free throws from Figueroa and Patlan to cut the lead to five.
Dinuba made a layup for a 40-33 lead with about four minutes left in regulation. From there, the Coyotes kept the Emperors scoreless while the Coyotes scored seven straight points.
Houghton started the comeback with a bucket from the low post. Figueroa cut the lead to three with a pair of free throws. Perez then hit a 3-pointer to tie the score at 40 with 2:11 left in the game.
Both teams had their chances to take the lead, but neither team scored in the final minutes. Dinuba turned the ball over twice and Madera missed three straight shots heading into overtime.
“I told everybody at halftime that I didn’t think they could keep that pace,” Smith said. “They did a good job of it, but they couldn’t keep the press on. When we took Cathy out of the middle and moved her to the wing, she broke the press so much easier.”
Dinuba scored the first points of overtime with a bucket, but Stephenie Jordan hit a 10-foot jumper to tie the score. Dinuba made a pair of layups around a Figueroa free throw for a 46-43 lead.
With a minute left in the game, Perez chased down a loose ball, drove towards the lane and banked in a straightaway 3-pointer to tie the score.
On Madera’s next possession, Jordan missed a 3-pointer, but Aasyria Goins came down with the rebound and found Perez in the corner. Perez let loose and swished in a 3-pointer with 30.8 seconds left for a 49-46 lead.
“The one in the corner, I knew this was game,” Perez said. “I didn’t call bank. I knew we needed that three. I wasn’t driving to the basket, because we needed a 3-pointer.”
Madera stole the ensuing inbounds pass and Perez was fouled. She made a free throw with 12.7 seconds left for a four-point lead.
Dinuba tried a last second shot, but it wasn’t close and Perez came down with the rebound to secure the victory.