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Tom Smart, Deseret News
Salem girls celebrate as Salem High School defeats Timpanogos High School 74-70 in overtime in girl's basketball Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012, in Salem, Utah.

To view more photos from this game, click here.

SALEM — Seeing the starting point guard go down just seconds into the third quarter of a critical region game might make some players panic.

Not Salem Hills junior Missy Belliston.

When starting point guard Georgia Agnew went down at 7:17 of the third quarter, Belliston only had one thing on her mind.

"I thought, 'You guys are going to lose because you just took out my best friend,'" said Belliston, who hit 15-of-20 free throws down the stretch, including the game-winners in overtime of Salem Hills' 74-70 win over Timpanogos. "I felt frustration, and I knew our team was going to win for her. She's a great player."

Because the Skyhawks rely heavily on Agnew's leadership and ball-handling skills, it was a significant loss.

"It changed the way we do things," said head coach Mike Conner. "But Missy's been a very good player. When it really matters, she scores."

Conner had high praise for senior guard Hailey Ingram (13 points), as well as senior center Lyssa Hanks (12 points). In fact, most every girl who stepped on the floor for both teams made significant contributions to a well-played, well-coached contest.

For example, in the final minute of regulation, Conner put junior forward Miranda Waite in on defense and then swapped her out for senior guard Jerika Durfey on offense. Waite's first sequence down the floor, she came up with a huge block with about 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter that gave the ball back to Salem Hills.

Both teams started the overtime minus two starters — Timpanogos lost two, including point guard Mercedes Riggs, to fouls, and Salem Hills lost Agnew to injury and Brooke Ford to fouls. The T-wolves lost two more players in the overtime to fouls, while the Skyhawks capitalized on almost every chance they had at the free-throw line, hitting 34-of-45.

The T-wolves were also helped by huge contributions from bench or role players, including sophomore Rachelle Warner, whose 3-point shot at the end of regulation forced overtime. And in overtime, trailing by five points, junior Monica Yeates, fresh from the bench after a teammate fouled out, hit a 3-pointer that put the game — again — within reach of the tenacious T-wolves with six seconds left on the clock.

But an intentional foul put Hanks on the line and she made her only points of the second half by hitting both free throws.

The win is critical as the teams in Region 8 battle for any advantage and often win or lose in overtime by one or two points. Springville upset Maple Mountain last Thursday so now there is a three-way tie for first place between Salem Hills, Timpanogos and Maple Mountain. Springville is one game back in second place.

"This is huge for us," said Connor. "We haven't played well for three or four straight games, so it was nice to come out and play well."

In the last few contests, teams have been focusing on Hanks. Timpanogos was no different, with the T-wolves holding her to just 12.

"I was frustrated," admitted Hanks. "But I try not to let the frustration get to me and remember that even if I'm having a bad day offensively, I can always play really hard on defense. I do what I can for my team."

And that was significantly altering the T-wolves game inside as she earned five blocks and 11 rebounds. Kiley Williams also played well, scoring 14 points, and coming up with some key steals.

The T-wolves were led by sophomore forward Eternity Galeai, who scored 14 points and Maddie Dowd, who added 14 points. Danielle Chapman finished with 12 points and six other players scored in the loss.

"That's as good a high school girls game as you'll ever see," said Conner.

Email: adonaldson@desnews.com