Senior Merrett Brown hadn’t made a shot all night until she hit nothing-but-net when it counted most – with nine seconds left and the Christopher High girls varsity basketball team down one point.
The basket gave the Cougars a 45-44 lead, and one last defensive stand at the other end, which included a Cydney Caradonna block and Ashanti Clayton steal on the subsequent in-bounds pass, secured the CHS victory over Notre Dame-Salinas in non-league action Tuesday in Gilroy.
“It definitely wasn’t my night,” Brown said. “I just shot it. It was nice to see it go in.”
Neither team saw much go in during a low-scoring first half that left the Spirits up 15-11. With leading scorer Hanna Tabron out of sync, missing her first nine shots, Caradonna, a sophomore, kept the Cougars afloat during the first-half, posting eight of her 13 points.
“A tale of two halves, right?” CHS head coach Heather Stewart said. “The tempo and energy level on offense in the second half is more of what we want.
“Defensively we struggled a little bit,” Stewart continued. “In the first half Cydney woke us up a bit. When you have two shooters, Merrett and Hanna, who are struggling, it’s nice to have that spark.”
The sluggish first-16 minutes gave way to a more fluid second half and yielded plenty of excitement as the game wore on.
Spirits’ guard Marisa Given drained back-to-back- 3-pointers midway through the third quarter – one tying matters at 18-all and the other for a Notre Dame 21-18 lead. Tabron, meanwhile, eventually found her stroke out of the break and scored 14 of the team’s 17 points in the third, including a 3-pointer that tied the game at 28-28 heading into the fourth.
Six straight Tabron points helped the Cougars take a 34-31 lead after three minutes of the final quarter. But Alyxis Guerra delivered the first of two 3-pointers of the quarter for another deadlock at 34-34. The contest remained up for grabs with two minutes to play after a turnaround jumper off the hands of Clayton made it 40-40. The Spirits proceeded to open up a 44-41 lead, but Tabron pulled the Cougars within one as 43 seconds showed on the clock. The CHS defense held on the Spirits next trip down the court. Brown sank the game-winner moments later.
“This game kind of shows us what our potential should be,” Haylee Peterson said. “Our defense wasn’t as it should’ve been, but we will work on that.”
Tabron finished with a game-high 23 points – all in the second half. For Notre Dame, Guerra had 15 points to lead the team.
“This helps our confidence. Even though the first half wasn’t so great, we know that we can come back and do it,” Tabron said.
The Cougars (2-0) head to the Watsonville Tournament on Thursday for a first-round matchup against Santa Cruz, which is coming off of a first-place showing at the Mustangs Classic last weekend.