By Todd Wills
DAWSON — Wortham coach Anthony Branch has been waiting all season for a victory to turn around the Lady Bulldogs’ season.
They might have gotten it Tuesday night.
Wortham rallied from a 14-point third-quarter deficit to force overtime, then pulled away in the extra period for a 53-48 victory over Dawson.
Wortham’s press gave Dawson fits in the fourth quarter and overtime, working on both ends of the floor. Dawson scored only 12 points in the final 12 minutes. And Wortham turned seven steals into baskets after trailing 36-29 entering the fourth.
“That’s just a good win and what we’ve needed to break through this year,” Branch said. “We’re in the playoff race. We beat a very good team over there.”
Wortham (9-13, 2-2) trailed 35-21 with 3:31 left in the third quarter, but used an 8-1 run to end the period. Ki’Undrea Smith, who played a key leadership role, and Jasmine Bailey, who would star later in the game, made layups in the final minute to cut Dawson’s lead to single digits.
Dawson (2-2) went back up 40-31 on Alicia Simmons’ baseline jumper. It gave Simmons 20 points for the game, but it would also be the last time she would score as Wortham did a better job of fronting her down the stretch.
Wortham started its comeback at the line, turning turnovers into trips to the free throw line. They made just 3 of 6 free throws during a two-minute stretch to cut the lead to 40-34 with 1:56 left. Smith had a layup and a free throw to cut the lead to 40-37.
But Rachel Ivie’s floater in the lane appeared to give Dawson some breathing room at 42-37 with 47 seconds left.
Wortham kept up the pressure as Smith drained her team’s first 3-pointer of the game with 32 seconds left for a 42-40 game.
After a Dawson turnover, Bailey was fouled on a close call with 12.6 seconds left in the game. Bailey, who was 2 of 8 at the line, swished two free throws, the second after a Dawson timeout, to force overtime.
Wortham continued its momentum in overtime as Amber Libhart and Bailey opened the extra period with steals and layups. Dawson was able to tie it at 46-46 on Dakota Dodd’s basket with 2:30 left.
Smith made 2 of 4 free throws for a 48-46 lead and Lauren Libhart had a steal and hoop with 57 seconds left for a 50-46 lead.
Dawson played brilliantly in the first half, building a 25-17 halftime lead. The advantage swelled with a 10-4 run to open the quarter, but at that point Dawson started turning the ball over and playing into Wortham’s game.
“We relaxed a little for sure,” Dawson coach Christina Reyna said.
The two teams will play again Feb. 5 in Wortham. Expect more fireworks.
Wortham 53, Dawson 48
Wortham 9 8 12 13 12 — 53
Dawson 12 13 11 6 6 — 48
Wortham: Ki’Undrea Smith 19, Jasmine Bailey 18, Amber Libhart 7, L. Lauren Libhart 4, Kennedy Vogel 4, Lyndsey Ranson 1.
Dawson: Alicia Simmons 20, Rachel Ivie 8, Brittany Carr 6, Reagan Woodall 6, Dakota Dodge 6, Haylee Kimbriel 2.
Records: Wortham 9-13, 2-2 in 21-1A. Dawson is 12-9, 1-3 in 21-1A.