OREM — The Provo Bulldogs are one of the hottest teams in 4A girls basketball because of their ability lately to win the close games.

By again finishing strong down the stretch, the Bulldogs avoided another upset Tuesday night by sneaking past the Orem Tigers 44-39. Sophomore Ashley Kuchar was Provo's big gun by scoring nine of her game-high 13 points in the game's final nine minutes. Her two free throws with eight seconds remaining eliminated any chance of Orem sending the game into overtime.

The game was a back-and-forth battle all way to the final minute.

With the score tied 25-25, Kuchar hit a fall-away baseline jumper to beat the buzzer to give Provo a 27-25 lead after three periods. Early in the fourth the Bulldogs extended that lead to 29-26 on an inside banker by Sara Heaton.

The Tigers, like they did all game, didn't fold up shop and gave themselves a chance to win by answering Provo's scoring by heating up from behind the 3-point arc. Virginia Voeks tied the game 29-29 when she canned a trey. Then, after five straight points from Kuchar gave Provo at 34-29 lead, Brianne Larsen drilled a three to make it a one- point Bulldogs' lead.

With just under three minutes remaining, a running bank shot by Ethline Fa'atoafe put the Bulldogs ahead 36-32. Aly Tucker cut the lead back to one with another basket from long range. Fa'atoafe came right back with another running layup to give Provo a 38-35 lead.

Orem's final gasp came with 1:40 remaining when Larsen buried another trey to tie the game 38-38. But the Bulldogs went up for good when Kelsey Nelson took a feed in close and banked in the go-ahead bucket with 1:06 on the clock.

With 46 seconds left Voeks hit one of two from the line. Then, at the other end, a hook from in close by Nelson gave Provo a 42-39 lead. The Tigers missed two shots on the ensuing possession, after which Kuchar's two free throws sealed the win for Provo.

Following Kuchar in scoring for Provo was Fa'atoafe with 12. Voeks led Orem with 11, while Regan Bailey added 10.

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