By Graham Henderson
After trailing by 10 points heading into the final quarter, Washington High School narrowly escaped a potential upset, beating Balboa High School 51-50 in the Academic Athletic Association semifinals on Tuesday at Kezar Pavilion.
The game was closer than Washington (25-8) was expecting, because, in the two regular-season meetings between the teams, Washington trounced Balboa 65-45 and 61-41. The Eagles also went through the AAA season undefeated.
The Eagles trailed 43-33 after the third quarter, but after the teams traded baskets, a 6-0 run capped by a three-pointer from Washington guard Sarah Chin pulled the Eagles within four.
“It’s not what we changed, it’s what we told them,” Washington coach Vince Wong said of his pep talk before the final quarter. “‘Believe in yourselves, you’ve just got to stay focused,’ and they did.”
With the pressure on, the Bucs (14-10) started to falter, turning over the ball four times in the final four minutes, and the Eagles were able to capitalize. With under two minutes to play, Kelly Lem put Washington up 49-48.
But Balboa’s Yarnel Evangelista stayed cool under pressure — Washington used two timeouts to ice her at the free-throw line — and sunk the two shots with 25 seconds left to put Balboa back on top by one.
On the next Washington possession, the Eagles got the ball to leading-scorer Megan Dea, and she didn’t disappoint, finding the basket from inside the key, giving the Eagles the win. Dea led the Eagles offensively, scoring 18 points.
“I just thought, ‘I have to make this for my team,’” Dea said.
The Eagles came out of the gate strong, finishing off the first quarter with a 19-13 lead, led by center Phacharee Arunleung’s dominance under the basket. Arunleung finished the game with 10 points.
But Balboa had impressive performances of its own. The Buccaneers outscored the Eagles 15-6 in the second quarter, and 15-8 in the third.
Leading the way for Balboa were guard Chanel Malone with 18 points and guard Malaysia Basallo with 16, but despite putting up big scoring numbers, the Buccaneers also turned the ball over 14 times.
“I’m impressed with the girls,” Balboa coach Keith Smith said. “They worked hard all year and we deserved to be here today. It wasn’t a fluke.”
With the win, Washington moves on to face Lowell for the Academic Athletic Association championship on Friday.
Megan Dea – 18
Phacharee Arunleung – 10
Sarah Chin – 6
Kelly Lem – 6
Meghan Louie – 6
Chanel Malone – 18
Malaysia Basallo – 16
Yarnel Evangelista – 6
Cynthia Ngan – 6
Rika Murase – 2