SAN TAN VALLEY — It wasn’t the cleanest basketball game as bodies kept hitting the deck and the ball constantly sailed from one end of the court to the other.

The outcome is one Poston Butte wishes were different, as the Broncos fell 38-37 to Peoria on Monday in a rare early afternoon game.

“We’re learning and we’re growing,” Poston Butte coach Savannah Bix said. “Again, we showed our immaturity. We just [did not show] heart, and that’s kind of what we did. We have to find a way to win games when we’re not playing well offensively because we’re super offensively motivated, we have a lot of kids that love to score and put the ball in the hoop, but when it’s a little harder we still have to figure out ways to win basketball games.”

It wasn’t until there were less than three minutes left in the game when Peoria (3-8) grabbed its first lead of the game, as the Panthers were in the bonus and Gabby Gutierrez was fouled.

Gutierrez nailed both free throws to give her team a one-point lead, 33-32.

Following a turnover from each team, Poston Butte’s Adriana Bachman grabbed the steal and pushed the ball up the court to Julia Harris for the fast break layup.

“The positive take away (from today) is my freshman Julia,” Bix said. “She’s not super skilled basketball-wise and not fundamental yet, but she works super hard. We keep track of hustle plays, and her and Adriana are constantly going back and forth with that, but to have a freshman be our workhorse and our kid that does a lot of the dirty work is awesome. We have to build on that, so she has the stuff that you can’t coach like the grit, the hustle, the drive, now we just have to groom her as a basketball player.”

The Broncos (6-4) led 37-36 with 1:30 left in the game as they regained possession. In an attempt to keep the ball moving to wind the clock down, Peoria’s Mykaela Daniels got a piece of the ball for the steal, and it was off to the races.

The Panthers struggled shooting the ball all day and that drive was no different, but somehow Samantha Thomas was in the right spot to hit a floater with only a few seconds left.

Following a quick discussion among the referees, 8 seconds were put on the clock with Poston Butte trailing by one.

The Broncos had to go full court, which they managed to do as Kilah Fowler went up for the game-winning shot along the baseline but was unable to hit the jumper.

“I keep telling them we’re not supposed to play our best basketball games yet, we’re supposed to learn and grow,” Bix said. “There are no failures as long as we learn but now we’re creeping up towards the end and we’ve got a short amount of games left, and now is the time when we have to start the uphill peak and not necessarily have games like today.”

Poston Butte’s biggest lead was six points, which happened at three different points throughout the game.

The last one came in the fourth quarter after Sierra Badger grabbed two quick steals, which lead to two quick buckets by Bachman.

“We can’t have days like today with lack of hustle,” Bix said. “I liked that little spurt in the fourth quarter, which how we usually come out right [off] the bat. We have a little bit of defensive pressure, and that causes a little bit of chaos and havoc. We didn’t do what we normally do and in turn, it led to a close game that shouldn’t have been such a close game.”

Poston Butte entered Monday holding onto the No. 16 spot in the 4A rankings and there’s no doubt that this loss will hurt its standing.

With the Arizona Interscholastic Association changing things this season and not having a play-in round for the 4A Conference, the Broncos’ remaining games are critical as they don’t want to let their fate come down to the final game of the season against rival Combs, which could decide the winner of the Black Canyon region.

“This hurts us moving forward, but we just have to win ball games and hopefully we can battle better with Combs than we did the first time,” Bix said. “It hurts us, but it’s just more motivation to win out and get better every day and just be ready for when and if that time does come.”

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Maria Vasquez is a reporter covering Eloy, Arizona City and sports. She can be reached at mvasquez@pinalcentral.com.