When they were needed the most, the two leaders of the Bret Harte High School girls' basketball team stepped up and delivered.

Junior guard Megan Shires made a free throw with seven seconds left to force overtime, and senior forward Tawnie Lee scored the last four points of the game to give the Bullfrogs a pulsating 45-43 victory over archrival Calaveras last night at the Bret Harte gym in a dual for the Mother Lode League lead.

Bret Harte (14-8, 5-0 MLL) is now the proud possessor of a one-game lead over defending champion Calaveras (14-7, 4-1) at the halfway point. The championship probably will be decided when the teams meet again in the regular-season finale Thursday, Feb. 20, in San Andreas.

Yesterday's game was befitting a showdown at the top of the standings as it was close all the way, with neither team leading by more than six points. After Christine Wilson opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer for Calaveras, the rivals were never more than three points apart.

"That was a fun game," Bret Harte coach Mike Lewis said afterward as most of the big and noisy crowed celebrated.

"It was pretty evenly matched," Calaveras coach John Francesca said.

What finally made the difference?

"I think it was our relentless pressure," Lewis said.

Francesca agreed.

"We wore down," he said. "We used only six-and-a-half players."

By that he meant that only one non-starter saw more than spot duty as the Redskins played valiantly in the absence of star guard Amanda Busi, who was lost to a knee injury last week against Argonaut.

Another difference was free-throw shooting, as Calaveras went only 12-for-23 while Bret Harte was much more efficient at 17-for-25.