Mia Grizelj’s buzzer-beating jumper in overtime not only saved the day for the St. Francis High girls basketball team – it also spared coach Brian Harrigan from reaching deep into his playbook.
“I was really glad, because I was running out of plays,” he said after the Lancers’ 59-57 home win over Sacramento Saturday in the Northern California Division II quarterfinals. “I don’t know if I had any more for the second overtime. I used them all up.”
And the play that won the game didn’t go exactly as planned. Devised during a timeout with 18.6 seconds left, the play wasn’t set up for center Grizelj to take the last shot; Harrigan said he wanted forward Adriana Frazier to screen for point guard Paige Uyehara and pop open for a jumper, but Sacramento “defended it well.” So Uyehara drove left and, after getting cut off at the baseline, passed the ball to Grizelj just outside the paint. Surrounded by a trio of defenders, the 6-foot-3 sophomore took two dribbles and fired up a one-handed shot from approximately 9 feet to beat the buzzer.
“I just got the ball and threw it up and hoped for the best – and it went in,” said Grizelj, who totaled 12 points. “Honestly, I thought I’d heard a buzzer already.”
All she heard after the shot was a whole lot of screaming from her elated teammates, who mobbed Grizelj in celebration.
“Give Mia credit,” Harrigan said. “We talked (during the timeout) that we just wanted the last shot or double overtime. To her credit, you know that if you put it up, something could happen. She put it up to the rim and it went in.”
But no player in Saturday’s game put more shots in the hoop than fellow sophomore Uyehara. She poured in 31 points – which may or may not be a career-high for the 5-foot-3 guard.
“I don’t even know how many points I’ve ever scored,” said Uyehara, surprised to learn she had passed the 30-point plateau.
Her last two points came on a drive with 1:32 left in overtime, putting St. Francis up 57-55. Uyehara, who drained 12 of her 14 free throws, also led the Lancers in assists (five) and steals (four).
“She’s a great player,” Harrigan said.
Uyehara scored six points in a fourth quarter that began with St. Francis trailing Sacramento 48-39. The deficit grew to 11 before the fourth-seeded Lancers rallied, scoring seven straight points.
With under two minutes to play in the period, Frazier hit a 3-pointer and, after the Dragons split free throws, Uyehara tied the game at 53 on a drive to force overtime.
The win not only sent fourth-seeded St. Francis (16-12) to the semifinals – it also avenged last year’s lopsided loss to No. 5 Sacramento (23-10) in the same round of NorCal.
“Last year, I think we were a little more mesmerized by them,” Harrigan said. “I thought this year, we played with them.”
The Lancers were next scheduled to play top-seeded Vanden (28-5) Tuesday in Fairfield, after the Town Crier’s deadline.
“We are so excited,” Frazier said of advancing to the semis. “We want to continue so badly.”
The winner plays in the regional final, slated 6 p.m. Saturday at the home of the higher seed.