BUHL – It came down to the last play. Defense wins championships. Last possession wins. It could have gone either way.

Pick a cliche for close, grind-it-out games, and, chances are, it describes Tuesday’s Gooding vs. Buhl matchup.

The Indians and the Senators duked it out in a back-and-forth slugfest, and it took more than the allotted time in regulation to find a winner. In the end, Gooding found just enough offense to defeat the Indians 39-36 in overtime Tuesday night at Buhl High School.

“It was a grind tonight,” said Gooding head coach Jysen Lancaster. “We couldn’t find it offensively. All we could do was fight on defense and hope it led to things on the other end.”

“When it comes down to the wire, I told the girls that we played hard and I think we can get them next time,” said Buhl head coach Kody Bingham. “It’s a matter of taking care of the little things.”

It was apparent early that points would be at a premium as the two teams combined to miss the first six shots of the game. Gooding’s Grace Parker eventually sunk a 3-pointer, and teammate Laken Wolf followed suit with one of her own.

Madison Somers got the Indians on the board with a layup, and the battle finally began.

Buhl led 10-8 at the end of the first quarter.

Each squad had to rely on its defense to create offensive opportunities. Ball pressure and quick hands led to steals, which gave way to fast-break opportunities.

“We go as hard as we can and we try to get those traps on defense,” Keely Wolf said. “We were trying to get those steals so we could get some easy buckets on offense because our shots weren’t falling.”

With the game tied entering the final seconds of the second period, Keely Wolf was fouled on a 3-ball attempt. She sunk two of the free throws to give Gooding a 21-19 advantage heading into the half.

The Indians stormed back and took control during the third quarter. Kylie Crossland buried a 3 and Emma Benson followed with a layup to put some distance between themselves and the Senators.

Buhl led 30-25 entering the fourth.

Gooding slowly but surely chipped away at the lead and got within 2 points late in the fourth period. Parker sunk a pair of free throws to tie it, but her deep jumper at the buzzer came up short.

To overtime they went tied at 32.

If the basket had a lid on it during regulation for Buhl, it had chains and a lock on it in overtime. The Indians had some good looks from the floor, but they simply were not falling. Benson finally hit a layup with 15 seconds left in the extra period, the team’s first points since regulation.

“We gave up the ball like it wasn’t precious to us,” Bingham said. “I told the girls that they need to treat the ball like it’s their child. We need to grab it, hold it and take care of it.”

“We really stepped it up in overtime,” Lancaster said. “Last time Buhl got us by 3. Tonight we got them by 3. Things are going to be tight in this conference.”

On the other end, Gooding pulled ahead and iced the game away from the free throw line. Parker was the go-to player to hit the clutch shots at the charity stripe.

“I try to pick up the scoring for our team,” Parker said. “I wasn’t on so much tonight, but we worked hard on defense and found a way.”

Gooding (9-5, 3-1 Sawtooth Central Conference) travels to Kimberly on Thursday for another big district matchup.

“We’re finding out who we are right now,” Lancaster said. “Keely (Wolf) has done a good job at point guard for us and we’re headed in the right direction.”

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Buhl (8-8, 3-3) travels to Castleford today. The Indians finish the regular season with four non-conference games.

“We’re going to look at the little things during these next four games and take care of them,” Bingham said. “It’s a good opportunity for us to get better.

“This conference is wide open. I think Buhl is going to be right in the thick of things when it matters.”

Gooding 39, Buhl 36, OT

Gooding; 8; 13; 4; 7; 7;-39

Buhl; 10; 9; 11; 2; 4;-36

GOODING (39)

Keely Wolf 10, Grace Parker 9, Erika Anthony 5, Laken Wolf 5, Tessa Conrad 4, Khali Robinson 4, Kassidy Davis 2. Totals 10 16-31 39.

BUHL (36)

Sage Eckert 6, McKenna Lively 2, Kylie Crossland 3, Emma Benson 4, Emily Gorrell 7, Madison Somers 6, Kayla Morse 5, Alyssa Gorrell 3. Totals 15 5-15 36.

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