It took awhile for Arianna Barnes to figure out how to flip the mental switch, but once the light went on, she lit up the scoreboard not a moment too late.
A night filled with cold shooting and turnovers ended warmly for No. 16 Williams Field, as the Black Hawks used a 17-point fourth quarter and clutch free throws in the final five minutes to hang on for a 45-39 victory against No. 18 Queen Creek in the first round of the Division II state tournament.
Williams Field will play at No. 2 Seton Catholic on Friday in the second round. Similar to what happens when Williams Field and Queen Creek get together, this weekend's matchup figures to be tough for the Black Hawks (0-3 vs. Seton Catholic this season), but Wednesday's win offered a reminder on the power of perseverence.
Barnes scored seven of her team-leading 15 points in the fourth quarter, and, after missing her first two free throws of the night in the first quarter, made 5-of-6 in the fourth to help keep Queen Creek two possessions behind.
She also joined with A'Shari Pittman and Brittany Heyer in hitting key jump shots down the stretch to stop Bulldogs' rallies.
Barnes found the key late this season at the urging of her coaches to free her mind and the free throws will follow.
"Better now than never," she said. "...Once it's mental and you find confidence, get into a flow, it feels automatic."
Williams Field led after each quarter, but never by more than seven points. Makaila Worthington's 11 points in the third quarter kept Queen Creek in contention, and her 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter brought the game to a 30-30 tie on a night where points were at a premium for the first 30 minutes.
That's when Williams Field took control with those key baskets and better defense during a six-minute stretch of the fourth quarter. Offense was hard to come by, but the lead slowly moved out to four, five, six and seven points. A Pittman basket, Heyer's blocked shot and a couple free throws by Barnes in the final 90 seconds of the fourth clinched the win.
"We calmed down a little," Barnes said. "We had a rough time handling the ball but if we stuck together and moved the ball around we'd play better."
Worthington finished her terrific high school career with 21 points, though the Williams Field defense made it difficult on the versatile forward. Senior teammate Sarah Hefington scored all nine of her points at the free-throw line as the emotional, senior-heavy Bulldogs will undergo significant lineup changes for next season.
Cardelia Allen scored 12 points for the Black Hawks, who mostly rely on juniors and sophomores.
This was the third meeting between these two schools this season, the teams split the previous two games in late January, and all three were decided by fewer than 10 points.
Williams Field 45, Queen Creek 39
QC 5 9 12 13 -- 39
WF 9 12 7 17 -- 45
QC: Nga 4, Worthington 21, Crewse 3, Carnwell 1, Hefington 9.
WF: Crespin 3, Pittman 6, Heyer 6, Allen 12, Barnes 15, Land 1.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.