Forget the seedings in this one! The #2-seed Lady Cobras had to face #6-seed Westhill, the team who had eliminated them from the postseason the past three years. So this Sectional Semifinal game had a little more backdrop than usual. Despite a horrific offensive first half, the Lady Cobras played their best basketball down the stretch to earn a 47-44 win at a packed Allyn Gym at OCC, and advance to the Section Three Class C Championship Game next Sunday against Bishop Ludden.
Much like the regular season meeting between the two teams, Westhill got off to a strong first quarter start. The Warriors knocked down three three-pointers on their way to a 15-9 advantage after the opening eight minutes. Sophomore guard Abby Wilkinson was keeping the Lady Cobras within striking distance as she scored seven of the nine points in the quarter.
The second quarter was the type of defensive struggle that typically ensues when the two teams meet. Westhill managed to hold off a couple of potential Lady Cobra surges to take a 23-16 halftime lead. The Lady Cobras headed to the locker room having played their worst offensive half of the season, realizing they needed to change things if they wanted the season to continue.
The Lady Cobras came out of halftime looking a bit more like themselves. They were more patient offensively, getting the ball into the paint with regularity. The junior forward duo of Azariah Wade and Brianna Squier combined for 22 of the Lady Cobras 31 second half points mostly on a combination of post moves and put-backs from offensive rebounds. There was a mix of great passing to the interior that was missing in the first half, suddenly became commonplace. Wade even stepped out for a couple of jump shots including a clutch three-pointer from the wing. Meanwhile, in a total reversal, it was Westhill who resorted to jump shots after not being able to get the ball inside.
The Lady Cobras closed the gap and then took the lead on a huge three-pointer by Molly McInerney late in the third quarter. The usual Grimes/Westhill drama ensued as the lead would change hands for most of the fourth quarter. Down the stretch Wilkinson re-emerged with some clutch free throw shooting. She scored the final five points of the game of six free throw attempts in the final two minutes. McInerney, who had to leave the game late in the third quarter after a collision on a loose ball, returned and would snag the final rebound to seal the victory.
As they have all season, this team refused to give in. Finally, they were able to close out one of their fourth quarter comebacks, and at the most critical time. Wade finished with a game-high 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Wilkinson, who played all 32 minutes, finsihed with 14 points and six rebounds. Squier added seven points, all on the second half, and grabbed eight rebounds. Molly McInerney added four critical second half points as well as grabbing four rebounds. Maria Naylor, who played with frustrating foul trouble most of the game, still made her presence felt by grabbing three boards and making a pair of steals. The Lady Cobras have a much-needed week to recover from this physical affair. They will return to OCC to take on Bishop Ludden in the Championship Game next weekend. Game time will be announced early this week.