Casper gets the final run to beat Lady Pioneers 67-56

More often than not, the last run wins in basketball. And, to the chagrin of Miles Community College women’s basketball fans, the last run on Wednesday belonged to Casper.

Casper outgunned Miles 14-3 in a four-minute span to take a 67-56 lead with 1:12 to play on a pair of Ashlie Larson free throws.

Despite a last-minute rally, and a long trey at the buzzer by Lady Pioneer sophomore guard Tia Torio, Casper prevailed 68-62.

“Our goal tonight was to limit their runs. Unfotunately, they had their biggest run at the end of the game,” said Lady Pioneers head coach Liz Lewis.

With a win, Miles could have clinched a home berth in the NJCAA playoffs.

The Lady Pioneers, who fell to 6-7 in Region IX play and 15-14 overall, can still host a home play-in game next Friday if they beat Little Big Horn at home on Saturday. Tipoff is at 2 p.m.

Despite the loss, Lady Pioneer coach Liz Lewis spoke glowingly of her team’s effort. “I’m really proud of the way we played,” she said.

No wonder. Casper is 11-3 in the region and 22-7 overall. Plus, the Lady Thunderbirds beat Miles by 39 points on Jan. 28.

Despite beating Miles easily in Casper, Lady Thunderbird head coach Dwight Gunnare said he wasn’t expecting an easy game.

“I knew coach Lewis would make some adjustments,” Gunnare said. “They don’t quit, and that’s a testament to their coaching staff.”

Miles dug a hole early, trailing 13-4 before Lewis called time out.

The Lady Pioneers recoverd to lead 34-30 at the half, and traded runs with Casper throughout the third and fourth quarters.

“It went back and forth. A couple of more minutes, and Miles would have made another run,” said Gunnare, who was the head coach at Miles for six years before taking the Casper job nine years ago. He kept his perfect coaching record against his former team intact.

A talented trio of Lady Pioneers — sophomore guard Tia Torio and freshmen Jennifer Burnham and Colleen Katoa — didn’t make it easy.

Torio filled the stat sheet, scoring a game-high 18 points on five-of-nine shooting from the field and a six-for-six effort from the foul line. She added five steals and four rebounds — both team highs — to the effort.

Katoa netted 15 points on five-for-seven shooting, including a three-for-five effort from behind the three-point line. Burnham scored 16 points, while freshman Kyra Fleharty added nine points.

Miles shot 36 percent (17-47) from the floor and 35 percent (8-23) from beyond the ar, but fared better at the line, hitting 21-of-24 foul shots.

A similar effort on Saturday against winless Little Big Horn (0-25) should result in a home playoff game for the Lady Pioneers.

“It would be the first time Miles City has hosted a game in I don’t know how long,” said Lewis, who is in her fourth year as head coach. “It’s been a goal of mine since I got here.”