Both teams had chances to blow their accumulated leads, but only one did.
With their comfortable reduced to a just a couple baskets midway through the second half, the Eagles did their best to maintain as the Wolverines’ Jhoanna deGuzman played like a hyperactive kleptomaniac, producing steal after steal.
However, thanks to Taylor Campbell gobbling up the defensive rebounds, the Elijah Smith Eagles (3-1) kept their lead locked up, eventually defeating the Christ the King Wolverines 24-21 in girls’ Grade 7 basketball Monday at Elijah Smith Elementary.
“It’s probably a good lesson for them to maintain (that level of play) the whole way,” said Wolverines coach Duane Hanscom.
“We got it back, but for a while we were forgetting our rebounds and simple things like that. Emotion was getting the best of them.”
The Wolverines (1-2) looked ready to dominate the game early on, eventually going up 11-2 on a long shot by Stephanie Avery. But with a 1:29 left before half, the Eagles soared into the lead when Michaela Atkinson pushed back a shot by Alex Edzerza to go up 12-11. A minute later, Atkinson made her fourth steal of the half, eventually sinking a jumper
from the side of the key to end the half up 14-11.
“Before the game they were really hyper and excited,” said Eagles coach Sheila Brown. “I think they were just too wired and they were just forgetting basic stuff.
“I told them to slow it down and play their own game, and I think that turned it around for them.”
Midway through the second half (the second of two 20-minute periods), the Eagles expanded the spread to their biggest of the game. Eagles’ Cheyenne Bradley picked off a
Wolverines pass and dispatched the ball to Jim, who sunk it to go up 22-15.
As momentum continued to swing like a pendulum, the Wolverines climbed back within one when Rene Grewal hit the mark with just 45 seconds left on the clock. The six-point run was largely due to deGuzman’s numerous steals.
“She’s athletic, she works hard in practice, takes it really seriously and she’s becoming a playmaker,” said Hanscom of deGuzman. “Fitness and practising the drills pays off and I think she’s starting to see that. She’s definitely gaining confidence.”
Atkinson sealed the deal, nailing one last jumper with 10 seconds left, making her the game’s top scorer with 10 points.
“In the last couple games she just wanted to be our secret weapon,” said Brown of Atkinson. ”She just came out of the blue and started playing really well.
“She was one of two (Grade) 6’ers who played last year, which really helps your team because you coach them for a couple years.”
For the Eagles, Atkinson was followed by Jim with six points and Edzerza with four.
Leading the way for the Wolverines was Avery with eight points, while deGuzman produced five and Shara Kearney contributed four.
Both teams will be competing in the Grade 7 championships at the end of the week, and for Hanscom, a losing record means little with such a short regular season.
“I feel really good about the tournament,” said Hanscom. “Having players away today — hopefully if they’re healthy they’re be here for the tournament — and every game helps.
“We were just unfortunate to get a (regular season) bye. In a four-week season, a week with no game is an advantage to other teams.”
If the Eagles’ passing and shooting breaks down in the tournament, Brown has one last advantage over some other coaches.
“I’m really loud so they can hear me,” said Brown with a chuckle. “I’m not yelling at them, I’m yelling to them.”
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org