GWINN - Katie Rankinen sat out the fourth quarter at Gwinn Tuesday night in favor of a taller teammate.
But when the 5-foot-9 junior forward from Westwood High School got a chance to get back into the Mid-Peninsula Conference girls basketball contest, she made the most of the opportunity.
Rankinen threw a court-length pass to teammate Elizabeth Dauphinais-VanBuren with 1.5 seconds left and the latter sank a layup before the buzzer to give the visiting Patriots a 31-30 victory.
Westwood senior Elizabeth Dauphinais-VanBuren (30) celebrates with senior Amber Salo (34) after making the winning shot at Gwinn High School on Tuesday. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
"I brought Katie in for that play," WHS coach Kurt Corcoran said. "She's a softball player and there was no doubt in my mind she could make that pass."
Dauphinais-VanBuren, moving toward the bucket on the pass, caught the ball and took a step before putting up a shot off the glass.
"(Teammate Hannah) Salmi set a pick and it was a perfect pass," Dauphinais-VanBuren said, adding she sank a buzzer-beating shot last season in Gwinn as well. "I knew I didn't have much time to shoot."
Corcoran said the final play was something he knew well.
"I ran that play as a freshman (at WHS) with five seconds to go in Negaunee," he said. "(Then-coach) Dan Waterman drew it up."
Gwinn coach Ben Olsen said he thought his players were set defensively for the final play.
"I told the girls (during a timeout just previous to the play) 'Just keep (the Westwood players) in front of you,'" he said. "Obviously, we didn't do that.
"We just find ways to lose."
Gwinn's Ellie Olsen, who tied Dauphinais-VanBuren for game scoring honors with 12 points, canned a pair of free throws on a drive with 1.6 seconds remaining to give the Modeltowners (4-7, 2-2 M-PC) a 30-29 lead.
"What's lost in all of this is our near game-winning play we set up," Ben Olsen said. "We executed that play well - just how we wanted to run it.
"Things looked good at that point."
Dauphinais-VanBuren stole an inbounds pass after teammate Caitlin Hewitt had buried a 3-point shot with 13 seconds left to cut a Gwinn lead to 28-27. Dauphinais-VanBuren sank a basket off the ball theft with 5.5 seconds remaining for a 29-28 Westwood lead to set up the wild finish.
"I wouldn't have put any money on us making that final shot," Corcoran said. "But with Lizzie (Dauphinais-VanBuren), anything can happen."
Something different happened in the first quarter. With Westwood (6-5, 4-1) leading 6-4, the Patriots then held the ball without a pass for 4:47 against Gwinn's 3-2 zone defense.
"I wanted to get Gwinn to guard us and spread out that zone," Corcoran said. "Ben's a good friend of mine and that's two stubborn coaches for you."
Westwood finally advanced the ball with 1:02 left and two free throws by Rankinen gave the Patriots an 8-4 lead heading into the second quarter.
"I knew we couldn't match up with them in a man-to-man," Olsen said. "It's a testament to our zone they didn't want to play against it.
"(The zone) was to our advantage, It slowed them down for us."
Dauphinais-VanBuren (4) and Salmi (3) combined for seven points in the second stanza to give the Patriots a 17-10 halftime lead.
Though senior guard-forward Bella Wedig didn't play due to a trip to Washington, D.C., the Modeltowners were able to outscore Westwood 11-5 in the third quarter to cut the gap to 22-21.
Ellie Olsen notched six points and Jordyn Hutchens nailed a triple in the stanza.
Dauphinais-VanBuren hauled down 10 rebounds to lead the Patriots; Katie Aho and Tori Lauren snared five apiece for the Modeltowners.
Westwood won the JV game, 44-41.
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.