SULLIVAN TWP. — Dory, the ditzy blue tang fish with an always-sunny outlook from the movie “Finding Nemo,” said it best.
“When life gets you down, you know wanna know what you’ve gotta do? Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.”
It may as well be the battle cry for Black River’s girls basketball team.
Left dead in the water Saturday against Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division archrival Buckeye, the Pirates kept swimming, and Savanna Slone nailed an excuse-me 3-pointer with 4 seconds left to give them a thrilling 32-31 victory.
“This is really exciting for us,” a beaming Slone said while spitting out words 100 mph. “We were all crying and stuff. That’s how happy we were, you know?
“We beat Buckeye. We lost to them by so many points (16) the last time we played them and now we just beat them.”
Black River (5-13, 4-12) missed 14 of its first 15 shots and trailed 20-11 at halftime. Though the Pirates clawed within one point with 3:50 left and tied the game at 59.5 seconds, they never led until Slone splashed just her seventh 3-pointer of the season.
The final minutes were mistake-filled, but not without exciting moments. Black River forward Erin Patterson split free throws to tie the game at 29 and caused a jump ball on the rebound. The Pirates kept possession, and Patterson got a good look at a 15-footer jumper that just missed.
Buckeye center Jessica Banas (6 points, 14 rebounds, 9 blocks) snared the board. At the other end, Bucks point guard Hannah Hartley found a wide-open Sara Dash, who hit nothing but net on a baseline 16-footer with 24 seconds left.
Black River elected not to call timeout and went into its tried-and-true motion offense. Slone got the ball at the elbow extended, pump-faked a defender and took a dribble right.
The maybe-5-foot-2 guard then nervously glanced down at her feet. Realizing they were dangerously close to the 3-point line, she elevated tippy-toe style, leaned forward and tossed in a line-drive beauty.
Hartley’s 25-foot runner barely grazed rim as time expired, sending the never-say-die Pirates into a hugging and screaming frenzy comparable to 13-year-olds at a Justin Bieber concert.
It was a moment frozen in time seniors Slone (11 points, 8 rebounds), Megan Scott (5 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals), Brianna Barkhimer and Alexis Homoki will never forget.
“I just kind of shot it and prayed that it was going in,” Slone said. “I was just, like, peeing my pants almost. I was, like, ‘C’mon, just go in!”
Black River, which also received seven points and three assists from under-the-weather guard Angie Kazek, got back into the game by controlling tempo.
The Pirates entered the day averaging just 30.0 points per game and frustrated Buckeye (9-12, 9-7) with a patient offense that lulled the Bucks to sleep.
The style resulted in Buckeye forcing shots and straight-up missing others. The Bucks were 10-of-36 from the floor over the final three quarters, made just 1-of-6 free throws in the second half and committed seven fourth-quarter turnovers, including one seconds after getting a steal with just over a minute to go.
“We let them hang around, and they come back and bit us,” Bucks coach Randy Haury said.
Why? Because no matter what, the Pirates just keep swimming.
“We have a lot of heart on our team,” Slone said. “We don’t ever give up.”
Alexa Eisenbrown and Kayla Glancy each had 10 points as Buckeye’s junior varsity won 35-12.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.