MONMOUTH — Madison and Monmouth figured to go down to the wire as both are among the top teams in the Mountain Valley Conference. It just turned out that the wire ended up being a little closer than both teams expected.

Kayla Bess’ free throw with 9.7 seconds left gave the Bulldogs a 39-38 girls basketball win over Monmouth in a big early season matchup Tuesday night.

Bess’ winning shot came after some confusion and what turned out to be some valuable time ticking off the clock for the Mustangs.

The senior drew a shooting foul with 14 seconds to go, but play was allowed to continue after she missed her first free throw. Erin Whalen rebounded and put back the miss, but officials conferred and realized Bess was still due a second free throw. The time that ticked off between the miss and Whalen’s make was not put back on the clock

“(Officials) said because it was a correctable error the time run-off doesn’t matter, but to me it should have been a dead ball as soon as someone realized they messed up the foul shots,” Monmouth coach Scott Wing said. “But the rules are the rules.”

Wing called a timeout after Bess’ make and the Mustangs got a good shot off as Tia Day drove to the hoop, was cut off at the last second by a couple of Madison defenders, and missed. As both teams scrambled for the rebound on the floor, the final buzzer sounded on Monmouth’s first defeat.

The Bulldogs controlled the paint from the outset, pulling down 15 offensive rebounds to make up for 7-for-32 (22 percent) shooting. Day (six points, six assists) had a pair of layups toward the tail end of the half to give the Mustangs an 18-15 lead at intermission.

“We just played Boothbay (a 48-38 loss on Saturday) and they have really tall people, so it’s quite the difference going from that to this,” said junior guard Madeline Wood. “We tried to get the mismatch in the post.”

Monmouth handled Madison’ full-court pressure well in the third quarter to take its biggest lead of the game when Maddie Amero fed Abbey Allen inside to make it 26-19.

The Bulldogs patiently waited for the paint to open up and whittled the deficit back down to three on a pair of inside hoops by Lauren Hay.

“I thought we had an advantage inside tonight and we needed to take advantage of that,” Madison coach Al Veneziano said. “We did a very good job of that. We did a nice job of going to the boards. We did a nice job with the ball so it could be entered into the post.”

“They’re a physical team and they do want to go inside,” Wing said. “I thought we did a decent job against them for the most part. Obviously, that’s where they scored a good chunk of their points, but most of the year they’ve been more of an outside shooting team. That was mainly what we were keying on.”

Several shots spun out and the Bulldogs (24 percent) never did get untracked from the outside. But neither did the Mustangs (2-for-12 from 3-point range), including their most dangerous shooter, Day.

“They look to shoot the 3-pointer a lot and you’ve got to take that away from them, especially somebody like (Day),” Veneziano said. “She certainly can hit it.”

“It was definitely a thing to not let her get on a roll with her shot,” added Wood, who was matched up with Day most of the night. “I wanted to close her out real good and no open looks.”

Wood attacked the basket to get the Bulldogs back within one, 38-37, with 44 seconds to go, then tied it with a free throw after Madison’s press coerced a turnover.

“I knew we needed a good, close-range shot, so I saw an opening and I took it,” Wood said.

“It’s a huge win,” she added. “They’re going to get a lot of wins and a lot of (Heal) points for us. But we still have to play them later in the season (Jan. 29 at Madison).”

Bess finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds, Wood 10 points and nine boards for Madison (4-1). Haley West led Monmouth (3-1) with nine points and seven rebounds.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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