Shalon Baysinger and Ramonique Redding score final four points to win the game

Schalon Baysinger scored on a lay-up to break a tie with 23 seconds left and Ramonique Redding sank two clutch free throws Saturday to secure Taft College’s thrilling 62-58 Central Conference basketball victory over Porterville.

The dramatic victory avenged a 23-point loss when the teams met in Porterville in the first round.

“That lay-up was big time,” said Cougar head coach Tyrone Taylor.  “Redding got a steal when we really needed it and made a good pass that led to a big basket.”

Trailing 30-24 at the half, TC surged back to take an 8-point lead (53-45) before the visiting Pirates went on a 11-2 run to regain the lead at 56-55.  

The teams traded baskets before Bezait Anbesse, returning to action after missing two games with an ankle injury, sank a free throw to tie it at 58 with 50 seconds left.

The teams traded missed field goals when Redding made her timely steal and dished it off to Baysinger, who scored her only points of the game.

Taylor cited his team’s determination.

“We didn’t lose our energy,” he said.  “We kept playing hard.  We kept trying.”

The Cougars were sluggish early on but stayed within striking distance.

Porterville’s lead was five (44-39) when Erica Evans popped in one of just two three-pointers TC made.

That ignited a 12-1 Cougar run that put TC up 51-45.  

The lead was 55-47 when the Cougars went cold and didn’t score for more than four minutes.

In the meantime, the Pirates went on a 9-0 run to regain the lead 56-55.

TC regained the lead on Redding’s bucket, but Maribel Bravo, who led all scorers with 20 points, got the lead back with 1:43 left.

That set the stage for TC’s dramatic finish.

As usual, the Cougars spread the wealth around.

Zanoria Echols led the way with 15 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals.

Redding finished with 14 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals while Evans finished in double figures with 11 points and added 5 rebounds, an assist and 2 steals.

Anbesse had 8 points, 4 rebounds and a blocked shot, Crystallyn Faletoi 6 points and 3 rebounds, Airiyana Brown 4 points, Shelly Gill 2 points and 4 rebounds and Baysinger 5 rebounds and a steal to go with her clutch basket.

The Cougars (4-4 CVC, 9-14 overall) will look to make it three wins in a row Wednesday when they host Merced (6-2, 14-10) at 5 p.m.