No. 1 Kennedy scrapes past No. 3 Gervais 45-40
As the Gervais girls basketball team continues its ascent into the upper echelon of the 2A classification, there remain checkmarks along the way to prove they belong among the elite programs in the state.
Friday's game against the No. 1 Kennedy (17-3, 10-0 Tri-River) was an opportunity to do just that, and for three quarters, the No. 3 Cougars (17-3, 8-2 Tri-River) appeared on the verge of handing the Trojans their first league loss in three seasons.
But Kennedy showed its championship pedigree when it mattered most, holding Gervais to just four points in the final period to pull away for a 45-40 victory.
"For us, these are the games that we haven't run through that wall yet," Gervais head coach Kyle Buse said. "We still have to get past Kennedy, even if it's one game in league (play)."
After the Trojans cruised to a relatively easy 42-23 win in their first match against Gervais early in the month, the Cougars were determined to come out and show they were every bit capable of challenging the two-time former state champions for four full quarters.
"We have a lot of emotion going into a big game like this, and that's how a lot of the games are going to be when it's a game that means something," Buse said. "You might not see that as much from their team, because they're the favorites."
After going down 13-9 after the opening quarter, the Gervais defense worked to lock down Kennedy's leading scorer Sophia Carley, holding the senior post to just four points in the second period.
On the other end of the court, Gervais sophomore Araceli Vasquez put the Cougars on her back, scoring 12 of Gervais' 17 points in the period. Vasquez connected on consecutive 3-pointers sandwiched around a basket by Carley and went 6-of-6 from the free-throw line to give her team a 26-18 lead heading into halftime.
"The Vasquez girl, she's a great kid and works her butt off," Kennedy co-head coach Kerry Hall said.
"Gervais, you've got to take your cap off to them, they came out ready to go," Hall continued. "They had a great game plan of spreading us out, which pulled Sophia out of the key a little bit."
Heading into halftime with a rare deficit, Hall made sure her team knew the stakes. Gervais had already scored more in one half than they did in the entire first game, and they weren't going to back down.
"We told them at halftime, the first three minutes of the third quarter are critical," Hall said. "You either get it done there, or it's going to be a rough night."
The Trojans responded.
Carley opened the quarter with a bucket, followed by a 3-pointer from Reese Hall. Gervais junior Lilly Welburn connected on a two to stem the tide, but the Trojans went on a 7-0 run to take a 30-28 lead.
Gervais responded with four straight points from Bella Vasquez to retake the lead and go into the final period up 36-34. But the Kennedy defense was dialed in and ready to put the game away.
"We said, 'You can go show them Trojan defense, or we can continue to struggle,'" Hall said, "'and then we need to execute on offense' and they came out and did it."
Carley opened the fourth with a basket to tie the game and traded points with Gervais freshman Izzy Boyd.
With the game tied at 40-40 with less than three minutes left to play, Kennedy was able to use its press defense to disrupt the Gervais offense and generate turnovers to keep the Cougars from getting up shots. On the other end of the floor, Kennedy's Hailey Arritola knocked down crucial free throws in the waning minutes to allow the Trojans to pull away slowly.
"Up until the free throw battle, it was a one-possession game," Buse said. "I just wish we would have been able to hang on the ball a little better. That was the difference in the last couple of possessions."
Carley led all scorers with 21 points, while Elise Suing had 10 for the Trojans.
Araceli Vasquez was the lone Gervais player in double figures with 19. Bella Vasquez added seven for the Cougars.
KENNEDY 13 5 16 11 — 45
GERVAIS 9 17 10 4 — 40
Gervais — A. Vasquez 19, B. Vasquez 7, Boyd 6, Welburn 4, Hanson 4
Kennedy — Carley 21, Suing 10, Hall 5, Arritola 5, Cantu 4
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