CALAIS — Even though Mother Nature nearly prevented Kelsey Burtt from contributing to the Woodland girls basketball team Wednesday night, the senior guard gave Dragon fans an early Christmas present.
Despite skidding off a slushy road near Princeton on her way to catch the bus at Woodland, Burtt spread plenty of holiday cheer in the St. Croix Valley when she hit a jump shot just to the right of the foul line in the final seconds of overtime to lift the Dragons to a thrilling 50-49 victory over archrival Calais before a packed crowd.
The play was set up by a Molly White steal with just under 30 seconds remaining. After a timeout with 18.9 seconds left, Burtt worked to get open and calmly knocked down her shot to help coach Arnold Clark’s club improve to 3-0.
“It was really designed to go underneath the basket, but if somebody’s open, you just give it to the teammate, and if it goes in, it goes in,” said Burtt.
That happened to be the 5-foot-8 Burtt on this night, as she shook off the cobwebs from her minor car accident, leading three Dragons in double figures with 14 points. Taylor Cochran had a monster night with 13 points, 10 rebounds and four steals, while White had 11 points and seven steals.
“We just worked as a team. When it got tough we just buckled down and got the job done,” said Cochran.
Perhaps what may have gone unnoticed was the fact that the Dragons showed incredible patience on the last play and that Calais was out of timeouts and could not advance the ball or stop the clock after Burtt’s shot.
“That wasn’t our plan at first, but we had to do what we had to do,” said Burtt, who also had three steals.
Woodland trailed the defending Class C state champion Blue Devils 28-23 at halftime, but Burtt sparked an 8-2 Dragons run coming out of the locker room to give the visitors a 31-30 lead, and neither team led by more than three points after that.
But then, that’s how Calais-Woodland games typically go, and the Dragons got some revenge of sorts as they were knocked out of the tournament by the Blue Devils in the regional quarterfinals a year ago.
“These kids have a lot of heart. We had a lot of turnovers, we made a lot of mistakes, but one of the things about them is they keep working,” said Clark.
Calais showcased a 2-3 zone for much of the contest and prevented the Dragons from penetrating inside, but Woodland hit its jump shots when it needed to, finishing 22-of-57 (38 percent) for the night.
“A lot of people think that we just live off our defense, and that’s not the case, we have (good) shooters,” Clark said.
Cochran was particularly getting a lot of double-teams down low, with Calais’ Shannon Brown and Paige Gillespie surrounding her whenever she touched the ball inside 10 feet, but Woodland’s outside shooters stepped up.
“We really tried to shoot the ball outside,” said Cochran.
Woodland opened the contest with a 10-2 run, capped by Whitney Bassett’s follow-up basket, but coach Dana Redding’s Blue Devils went on a 26-13 spurt after that, with Gillespie, a freshman, scoring eight of those points to help give Calais its halftime advantage.
Both clubs had chances to win the game late in regulation, but Calais’ Meaghan Cavanaugh couldn’t convert a fast-break layup with just over 20 seconds to go, Burtt missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 13.9 remaining and then the Blue Devils couldn’t get a shot off.
Calais went up 1:10 into the extra period on Brook Young’s putback, but turnovers and missed shots haunted the Blue Devils down the stretch.
Woodland’s traditional full-court pressure defense forced 30 Calais turnovers while the Dragons totaled 17 steals.
“Our defense is basically our key to the game. We really can’t do it without our defense,” said Burtt.
Brown led three Calais players in double figures with 13 points, nine coming in the second half, while she also had four steals and eight rebounds. Gillespie finished with 12 points, and Allison Hill 10 points and four steals.