In a tightly contested district playoff game, it was the charity stripe that killed Mount Tahoma’s chances for a win late. Trailing by no more than six points to Kennedy for the final six minutes, the Thunderbirds went just 6-for-17 from the free-throw line in the final quarter – and 10-for-26 for the game – as the Lancers topped Mount Tahoma 66-60 on Feb. 12 at Franklin Pierce High School.
“I told them about (Duke University men’s coach) Mike Krzyzewski and (former NBA coach) Phil Jackson,” said Thunderbirds head coach Calvin McHenry. “The number one thing they say determines who wins playoff games is who makes the free throws and who doesn’t. And we didn’t, so we lost.”
Mount Tahoma took a 17-12 lead at the end of the first quarter, as Ashley Keys and Tanisha Lopez each hit two three-pointers in the period. Lopez added two more three-pointers in the second quarter, the second of which broke a 22-22 tie with five minutes left. But Kennedy responded to take a 33-32 halftime lead, and then the Lancers’ Celestina Ramirez took over. The junior guard scored 17 of her game-high 26 points in the second half, helping Kennedy build a lead while Lopez – who tied Keys with a team-high 16 points – was held scoreless after the break.
After Leah Brooks had given the Thunderbirds a 44-42 lead with 2:40 left in the third, Ramirez responded with a three-pointer and followed up with a jumper in the lane to regain the lead for the Lancers.
But Mount Tahoma’s Rejie Wright came on strong in the final quarter, helping the Thunderbirds keep pace with an early three-point play and a driving layup that cut the deficit to 55-53 with 3:35 left. But that’s as close as Mount Tahoma would get.
“I feel like they had no post players that could match up with Rejie,” McHenry said of his junior forward, who finished with 15 points and nine rebounds. “In the second half, she finally started going to the hoop, something she should have done in the first half.”
McHenry added that the game plan was for Wright to drive to the bucket early, and that Lopez needed to continue to take shots in the second half.
“I love these guys, they’re unselfish,” McHenry said. “But I’ve told them all season, we’ve got to do what we’re asked to do. There are reasons for it.”
Jea’Ohnna Lee added nine points and five rebounds for Mount Tahoma, while Nikki Miller had 16 points for Kennedy and Kelsey Abrejera added 14 points for the Lancers.
By Jeremy Helling