Cherae Medina had never felt the rush of a buzzer-beater. Not in college, not in high school. Never.
She has now.
The Air Force junior drained a 3-pointer as time expired in regulation, sending the Falcons to overtime where they eventually defeated Cal State-Bakersfield 82-78 on Thursday at Clune Arena for their first victory of the season.
“It was a Christmas present,” Medina said.
But Medina’s shot wasn’t exactly a gift that kept on giving. Bakersfield, which led most of the way after roaring back from an 11-point first-half deficit, opened a quick five-point lead in the overtime.
Again it was Medina leading the counterattack, as she hit a 3-pointer that put the Falcons in front by a point and later added a layup that finally put them up for good.
For Air Force (1-9), this win allowed the team to wipe out memories of the tough start and carry positive thoughts through a 16-day break.
“I was crying. Everybody else was jumping around,” said senior Dymond James, who scored 11 points, added nine rebounds and hit the final two free throws in overtime to seal the victory. “It’s definitely a great morale booster.”
It was almost the complete opposite.
CSU Bakersfield made just one of its first 17 shots and fell behind 16-5. A 21-3 run changed all that and put the Falcons behind.
The Roadrunners (2-8) led by as many as seven points before a 12-2 Air Force run – keyed by six points from James – briefly put the Falcons in front. Bakersfield again built a lead and was up 59-50 with 3½ minutes remaining before Air Force put together a rally that was capped by Medina’s shot.
“It actually shocked me, honestly,” said Medina, a Denver native. “I hit the shot and I felt like I was kind of shocked for a second, kind of frozen. Then my team was coming at me and I was like, ‘I just made that.’”
The shot was set up after Bakersfield’s Ciarra Ford made 1-of-2 free throws with 8 seconds remaining, missing on a chance to ice it.
Air Force took possession out of a timeout with 6 seconds left, with Alicia Leipprandt dribbling the length of the court before dishing to Medina on the baseline.
“It was good to get the monkey off their back, get a win and get the belief back,” Air Force coach Andrea Williams said. “A lot of people stepped up and didn’t panic, so that was huge.”
Leipprandt led the Falcons with 21 points. Medina had 15, and Katie Hilbig added 12.
Bakersfield, an independent (with a pending move to the Western Athletic Conference), was led by 24 points from Amber Williams.
Air Force next plays Dec. 29 at Iowa State. The Falcons expect the time off to be far more enjoyable than had Medina’s shot not fallen.
Or, as the happy coach succinctly put it after describing the final shot: "Thank goodness."