Local Sports, Preston, Sports

Preston survives at Bridgeport for second postseason victory in program history

BRIDGEPORT — In a game that saw 21 lead changes, the Preston High girls’ basketball team outlasted the Bridgeport Indians 51-47 to open the Class AAAA Region I, Section 2 tournament on Wednesday night inside The Pit at BHS.

PHS junior Kendra Nazelrod finished with a game-high 15 points while sophomore Bella Miller contributed 11 for the Knights, including two key free throws that put the game to bed with less than ten seconds to go.

Wednesday’s victory is the second postseason win in PHS girls basketball history. The Knights will move on to face University on Friday at 7 p.m. in the sectional championship game.

“I have always talked about our depth and it helped us in this game. Tonight was the epitome of resiliency and fight,” Preston head coach Brian Miller said. “For everything we have gone through this year and recently and even in this game, it speaks to the fight these girls have and the want they have to play for each other.”

A back-and-forth opening eight minutes saw the Indians take an early advantage in the contest 13-10. 

PHS came out of the break to begin the second with a quick 5-0 run to snatch a 15-13 lead, but the hosts immediately punched back with a basket to knot the score once again.

Two more minutes of traded baskets in the second frame were then followed by three minutes of only two points between the two teams.

Nazelrod converted two free throws just before halftime that made the difference at the break for the Knights as they held a two-point lead 22-20.

The third quarter held to the theme of the first half as the Indians held just a one-point advantage at 29-28 with 90 seconds to go in the quarter. Bella Miller hit a three to put PHS ahead by two and Bridgeport would only convert one of two free throws in the final two possessions of the frame. PHS led 31-30 after three quarters of play.

Alauna Wilson hit a triple and a free throw to open the fourth quarter for Preston but with 4:52 left in the game, PHS senior guard Ella White committed her fifth foul and was forced to leave the game. Jaylin Dodd gave BHS a 37-36 lead with a pair of free throws, but Miller did the same with two of her own on the next possession. The Knights got a stop on defense and then two more at the stripe by Ava Bishop that gave her team a 40-37 lead with 3:23 to play.

Dodd hit four free throws over the next 30 seconds for BHS, and Wilson added one of her own to tie the game at 41-41 for Preston. After another strong stop on defense, Nazelrod finished a layup to take a two-point lead with 1:58 to go but on the ensuing possession, Bridgeport’s Reese Pierce was fouled shooting a three-pointer and knocked down all three shots at the line to pull the hosts ahead 44-43. 

Nazelrod converted a pair of free throws that was negated by a triple from Haylee Pryor for Bridgeport, pushing them ahead 47-45 with 60 seconds to play.

After breaking the full-court pressure applied by BHS, Preston senior Kaylee Wimer ran the floor to the far corner before receiving a pass in a shooting position. The Trinity Christian transfer knocked down a huge three to steal the lead back 48-47.

The Knights buckled down on the defensive end on the ensuing possession, but Wilson only made one of her two free throws to extend the lead to 49-47. The Indians got the ball back with 31.2 seconds left on the clock and Dodd drew a foul on a shot attempt after the inbound.

To that point, she was perfect 10 for 10 from the line but missed both shots. Preston came away with the rebound but turned the ball back over to Bridgeport with 10.5 left on the clock, however, an offensive foul was called on the ensuing drive to the basket.

Bella Miller stepped to the line with 9.3 seconds left and calmly knocked down both of her attempts to put the game out of reach for the Knights.

“I shoot a lot over the summer and in practice so I just had to get in my rhythm and my routine like I always do,” she said. “I was also thinking in the back of my head of the seniors and we aren’t ready for them to be done yet. When I was shooting the foul shots I truly kept telling myself in the back of my mind that we have to finish this for the seniors.”

The Knights will move on to visit the University Hawks on Friday at 7 p.m. UHS defeated Preston 70-32 last week.

“I’ve never been so excited to see University,” Brian Miller said with a smile. “A lot of it when we see some of the bigger teams is probably the name on the other jersey. They do a great job of speeding you up not only physically, but mentally. We will be ready to go.”

Preston 51, Bridgeport 47
PHS 10 12 9 20 – 51
BHS 13 7 10 17 – 47
PRESTON — Nazelrod 5 5-6 15; Miller 3 2-4 11; Wilson 2 3-7 9; White 2 1-2 6; Bishop 1 3-4 5; Wimer 1 0-0 3; Simmons 1 0-0 2. 
BRIDGEPORT — Pierce 3 6-11 14; Pryor 5 1-7 13; Dodd 0 10-12 10; Anderson 2 0-0 5; Amick 1 0-0 2; Martinez 1 0-0 2; Kerr 0 1-2 1.
3-Pt. Goals — Preston 7 (Miller 3, Wilson 2, White 1, Wimer 1); Bridgeport 5 (Pierce 2, Pryor 2, Anderson 1)