Mustangs prevail after back-and-forth fourth quarter.
The final quarter of the fourth game in four days finally arrived. Legs beginning to feel the fatigue – shots and free throws weren’t dropping as easily – and the grueling schedule perhaps had begun taking a toll.
But eight more minutes lay ahead and a tournament title awaited the team who could endure the last stretch.
Holding a vulnerable one-point advantage as the whistle blew for the fourth quarter, the Gilroy High girls varsity basketball team mustered up enough energy to complete the task at hand.
Junior Ashlee Williams scored 10 of her 15 points in the crucial quarter as the Mustangs built a double-digit lead then watched it disappear only to hunker down and reclaim the cushion for a 61-50 victory over St. Francis C.C.C for a very satisfying Seaside Sweet 16 tournament championship Thursday night.
“It feels really good. This group has been coming together and we have seen pieces throughout the preseason,” GHS head coach Tim Jones said. “It’s not together yet, by any stretch, but it’s a lot more cohesive then we expected to be at this point.”
Aided by Williams’ aggressive post play, resulting in six points inside, and three short-range jumpers from Kaylana Mah, the Mustangs opened the fourth on a 12-2 run to inflate the one-point lead into a seemingly commanding 50-39 margin midway through the quarter. A Chelsea Hill 3-pointer from the top of the key added to the push.
Following a layup and free throw from Sharks forward Marissa Azua, an awkward sequence involving the shot clock buzzer and an inadvertent whistle ultimately led to a 3-pointer that cut the Mustangs’ lead to 53-45 and kick started a tense two minutes in which the Sharks pulled within four points at 55-49 with 2:30 left.
However, the Mustangs countered the surge, outscoring the sharks 6-1 over the final minute and a half with Williams again coming through in the paint with a pair of clutch baskets.
“I sat out a part of the quarter and really wanted to get out there and give it my all,” Williams said. “It’s huge for us. Everybody doubts us. They hear Gilroy and underestimate us. For us to come out and take it to these teams is amazing.”
The first three quarters of the game saw a much slower pace as both defenses seemed to limit quality looks at the hoop.
Once the fourth quarter rolled around, the Mustangs’ defensive approach changed and opportunities to get out and run in transition began to form.
“We took better shots, talked a lot on defense and got some steals. Then we just kept running the break,” Hill said of the Mustangs’ monster fourth quarter. “This is a big motivational lift for us. It’s going to give us a lot of energy moving forward.”
The Mustangs breezed through the first two outings of the tournament, picking up double-digit wins against Madera (56-37) and Livermore (70-54) before needing overtime to dispose of McNair 49-43 on Wednesday to advance to the finals.
Michelle Sosa, who posted a team-high 17 points and averaged 14.7 points in the four games, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player and Chelsea Hill, who had 11 points Thursday, earned All-Tournament team recognition.
The Mustangs (9-1), who haven’t dropped a decision since a six point loss to Mountain View on Dec. 7, going a clean 6-0 since, begin Tri-County Athletic League play Tuesday at Alvarez before hosting rival San Benito on Thursday night.
“This was a huge boost. We are building that momentum heading into league and doing our best to keep that going the rest of the season,” Jones said.
Game time Tuesday is slated for 7 p.m. in Salinas.
Team 1 2 3 4 Final
GHS 16 12 10 23 61
St. Francis 14 13 10 13 50
Sosa – 17
Williams – 15
Hill – 10
Mah – 8
Hemeon – 5
Lambert – 4
Rose – 2