By Pat Turner
Stevens’ beginning of District 28-6A’s second round had the makings of a disaster.
However, the Falcons ended it with a bang. After falling behind by 16 points in the first period, the Falcons clawed their way back for a 61-58 overtime win over Brandeis.
It was a much-needed win for the Falcons (13-10, 6-4), who moved into a third-place tie with Brennan (13-10, 6-4). For first-year coach Kathleen Moroney, it was also a big confidence boost as the Falcons showed their ability to dig themselves out of a serious hole.
Much of the spark came from T’kiya Smith, who poured in 22 points, and Destiny Jenkins, who also scored 22 points, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.
“I think what helped us was everyone playing their role,” Moroney said. “We started playing better after the first quarter. We showed more senior maturity. It was a great way to start the second half. I am so happy for our girls.”
Still, it took a while to find that groove. Brandeis (18-3, 8-2), which was playing without injured point guard Kaia Herrera, was on fire in the early stages in soaring to a 17-1 lead behind the inside work of Sophia Haberer, who scored nine points in the opening period, Claire Hale and Alexis Parker-Guzman.
Going into the second period with a 17-4 deficit, Stevens started changing the outlook. Haberer, who finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds, got into foul trouble. In addition, the Falcons started connecting more efficiently on offense.
Jenkins’ two free throws and two 3-pointers brought the Falcons within 25-23, but Brandeis boosted their lead to 28-23 at the end of the second period.
Although Stevens closed the gap throughout the fourth period, Brandeis still held advantage until Jenkins’ steal set up Smith’s layup for a 47-47 tie.
Despite Stevens’ rally, Brandeis appeared to have things wrapped up as free throws from Haberer and Arriana Villa gave the Broncos a 50-47 lead with 7.8 seconds remaining.
However, that was enough time for Jenkins to push downcourt and swish her game-tying three.
“I knew Destiny’s shot was going in,” Smith said. “When went into overtime we had the mindset to win.”
Stevens kept its momentum going into the fourth quarter. Smith’s drive in the paint, followed by Jenkins’ shot from the key and two free throws sent the Falcons to a 56-50 lead quickly.
That was the lift the Falcons needed to carry them the rest of the way.
Clark (22-4, 10-0) padded its league-lead and kept its perfect intact with a 52-17 pounding of Jay.
Clark went into the contest without point guard Jessica Paz Y Puente, who is out with an injury. However, the Cougars pulled together and turned in a dominant performance, triggered by Rachel Lee, who bombed in four 3-pointers in the first period to lead Clark to a 19-8 first-period lead.
Clark carried a 30-15 lead in the second half and showed its best defensive work, holding the Mustangs to two second-half points. In addition, Lee, Ta’Niya Jackson, who put in 11 points, Cassie Bell, Kendall Young and Madeline Gomez kept the points coming.
“We always want to get off to a quick start,” said Lee, who finished with 15 points. “It gets our confidence up. We lost a great player, but we tried not to let that get us down. We just picked up the slack and tried to play Clark basketball.”
O’Connor came close to becoming an upset victim like Brandeis, but a fourth-quarter rally enabled the Panthers to pull out a 46-40 win over Holmes.
O’Connor (18-6, 8-2), moving into a second-place tie with Brandeis, rocked early in the second quarter with a 21-9 lead with help of Nicole Hemphill in the paint and 3-point goals from Carleigh Wenzel and Christina Anderian.
However, the Panthers could only muster two points the final five minutes as Holmes pulled within 21-19. A jumper by Shannon Bowden gave O’Connor a 23-19 lead going into the third quarter, but the offensive struggles continued.
At the same time, Holmes continued to show offensive life as Larisa Sanchez (16 points) and Lanay Wheaton (11 points) propelled the Huskies to a 29-24 lead midway through the third period.
Despite the scoring inconsistency, O’Connor stayed within striking distance.
Down 35-32 with the final period beginning, O’Connor got its boost quickly as Juliana Tapia canned a jumper and sent a pass off a steal to Hemphill (20 points) for a 37-36 lead right off the bat.
Holmes regained the advantage (40-36) with Alissa Martinez’s bucket underneath and a three from Sanchez.
After a free throw from Adeniran, Wenzel hauled down a defensive rebound, took the ball downcourt and nailed a three to tie the score at 40-40.
That was O’Connor’s springboard to a winning finish. The Panthers shut down Holmes the remainder of the period by forcing four turnovers. In the meantime, free throws from Shannon Bowden and Adeniran enabled O’Connor to wrap things up.
‘You have to come ready to play every game, because you never know what’s going to happen in this district,” O’Connor coach Karmen Wilson said. “Holmes shot the ball well. We had a little bit of luck at the end. But we also forced some turnovers. When Carleigh hit that three, I think the momentum changed.”
Brennan stayed in the playoff hunt with a 52-34 win over Warren.
The Bears had 10 players scoring with Abby Ventura leading the output with nine points.
Marshall squeezed out a 54-51overtime win over Taft.
The Rams (10-13, 2-8) were led by the duo of Kayla Baynes (14 points, eight rebounds) and Abby Lebherz (11 points, nine rebounds).
Taft (9-14, 3-7) had its highlights from Mariah Sias (16 points) and Maddie Sias (14 points).
Harlan (16-7, 7-1) remains tied with Medina Valley (19-10, 7-1) in District 28-5A after registering a 67-51 victory over Southwest.
Harlan was in control from start to finish, beginning with a 29-12 charge in the first period.
Southwest took advantage of the Hawks’ lull in the second quarter to close the deficit to 37-28. However, the Hawks relocated their energy in the third period as Jaisa Morris (19 points) and Jenay Henry (11 points) ignited a 21-point burst.