CORVALLIS — The Blue Devils couldn't breathe easy until Dillon's final buzzer-beating attempt fell short Friday night, handing Corvallis a 39-37 win over the Beavers.
They won't get much rest either, even with the Christmas break forthcoming. If anything, the win — which lifted the Blue Devils to 3-0 in the Southwest A (4-2 overall) — showed coach Andy Knapp and his squad just how hard they'll have to work to fend off their stingy conference opponents.
"We're happy about this, but at the same time, I look around what's happening in our conference and I'm not comfortable," Knapp said. "Butte Central just beat Stevi by 10. This Dillon team is scrappy. I'm not comfortable with anybody, and if my girls don't come to play hard, we won't keep winning games."
Corvallis, though, came to play early on its home court.
The Blue Devils opened the game on an 6-0 run thanks to a pair of 3-pointers, one from Lainie Albright and another from Calla Haldorson. The two triples sandwiched a pair of monster blocks from 6-foot-3 junior Isabel Evans, as the Devils set the tone both inside the paint and beyond the arc.
Hannah Martin added a steal and coast-to-coast layup for Corvallis two minutes later and the Blue Devils — who forced eight first-quarter turnovers — led midway through the frame, 8-2.
"They've taken pride in their defense," Knapp said. "It's been a point of emphasis. They've taken that challenge on every game and we're dialing it up a little bit more and a little bit more."
The Beavers matched the defensive intensity, though, and it helped Dillon climb back in the game. Employing a half-court trap for most of the contest, Dillon actually won the turnover battle 30-25, and the Beavers — who trailed the entire first half — took the lead, 33-32 with 2:48 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Tylia DeJohn drew a foul and knocked down the first half of the 1-and-1, giving the Beavers a brief advantage.
Then came the back-and-forth in the game that could be a microcosm of what's to come in the second half of the Southwest A schedule.
Corvallis answered DeJohn's free throws with a long-range 2-pointer from Martin (more on her in a moment) to give the Blue Devils back the lead, 34-33 on the next possession.
"Last night we were neck-and-neck with Stevensville and she came out and hit two big threes. For a couple nights in a row (Martin) has done big things for us," Knapp said.
Fifteen second later, Dillon's Josey Jones scored at the rim, though, giving the Beavers a 35-34 advantage with two minutes remaining. Jones finished with a game-high 19 points.
Next it was Evans' turn for Corvallis, and the post finished at the rim to give Corvallis a 36-35 lead with 1:07 remaining. After Dillon hit one of two free throws on the other end, Evans again had a big post move and basket to give the Blue Devils a 38-36 lead with 46 seconds to go.
"It felt good to make up for the two I missed right in front of the rim earlier," Evans said, laughing. "Oh, there's the basket, I know how to do that."
Dillon had three more opportunities in the waning moments of the game, however. DeJohn hit one of two free throws in a double-bonus situation to pull the Beavers within one, 38-37, with 30 seconds remaining.
The Beavers had another try at the line with 5 seconds as well, but both freebies went awry and Martin secured the rebound, drew a foul and stepped up to the free-throw line for Corvallis.
"She's a good athletic kid and she comes in clutch a lot when we need her. She's a smart player," Evans said of Martin.
Martin made the first to put Corvallis ahead 39-37 and missed the second, which made for a more difficult three-quarter court, buzzer-beating attempt for Dillon as time expired.
The shot fell short and Dillon (1-1 in SWA, 1-5 overall) dropped its first conference game.
"You can't really point to a team that's at the bottom," Dillon coach John Hansen said. "Everybody, one through six, I don't know who's going to be on the top and on the bottom. It's going to be a fun districts, anything could happen."
For Corvallis, it was the second-straight nail biter in as many days. The Blue Devils edged Bitterroot rival Stevensville on Thursday 49-41.
On Friday, along with Martin's clutch play and Evans presence in the middle, Albright led Corvallis in scoring with 11 points. The senior played through foul trouble, but she was a perfect 2-for-2 shooting from inside the arc and she connected on a pair of 3-pointers.
After the winter break, the Blue Devils host Anaconda on Jan. 3.