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Jags pull away from Chargers late, secure spot in district final

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The early game jitters that both the Allen Park and Crestwood girls’ basketball teams were feeling to start the game might have worn off as the game went on, but the high level of energy sure didn’t.

The Lady Jaguars punched their ticket to the district finals on Wednesday night when they defeated the Crestwood Chargers 36-28 in a highly-competitive, hard fought contest in Allen Park.

“It was a really, really intense game and I think our girls showed a lot of character in pulling it out,” said Allen Park Coach Chuck Perez. “The goal of course was to make it to Friday, and they found a way to do that.”

The theme of the game seemed to be defensive effort, as both teams fell back on it when all else failed. Allen Park and Crestwood both took their fair share of questionable and sometimes wild shots in the first quarter, and also committed a handful of early turnovers each.

Erin Fish got the Jags on track late in the first quarter when she nailed consecutive baskets (one 3-pointer) to end the quarter. The two jumpers from Fish allowed Allen Park to take a 13-5 lead into the second quarter.

Both teams continued to play hard defensively in the second quarter, closing out on shooters and not allowing any easy buckets. The Chargers outscored the Jags in the second behind Alicia Carmona’s four points, but still, neither team was able to generate much offense in the first half.

Crestwood Coach Bill Bright noted his team’s offensive struggles, which recurred throughout the game.

“We struggled early on with their press (defense) but we played pretty well I thought,” Bright said. “Our defense was strong all game, they kept us in the game in the first half. But our offense was pretty sporadic and their defense was part of the cause.”

Perez said that despite leading the entire first half, his team’s carelessness concerned him.

“We turned the ball over 13 times in the first half,” he said. “That’s way too much. So we talked about really making an effort to take care of the ball for the final 16 minutes.”

In the third quarter, Carmona and the Charger offense picked it up. Carmona hit two of the three 3-pointers made by Crestwood in the quarter.

The Chargers went on a 7-2 lead to open the third quarter and finally went up 20-19 following a bucket by Danielle Clarke midway through the third.

However, Allen Park’s top players were up to the challenge. Fish and Casey Bowdell each made big shots towards the end of the third quarter, helping Allen Park regain the lead.

The Jags went into the fourth quarter up by only one, 26-25.

In the final frame, Crestwood’s offense vanished again, as they managed only one field goal in the entire quarter.

“We had some turnovers and we got caught a few times going down the court, they beat us down the court,” Bright said. “Our shots weren’t falling and also, they were able to penetrate our defense a little bit toward the end there which caused us to have to foul them and give them a couple easy buckets.”

Once Allen Park managed to build a slim five-point lead, they began protecting the ball and killing out the clock. Bowdell found some holes in the lane to attack and got herself to the free-throw line a couple times late in the game. As a team, the Jags managed to score four points at the line during the game’s final five minutes.

Perez said the clock-killing tactics he employed late in the game went hand-in-hand with his strategy to protect the ball.

“Every point was really, really hard to get this game, so taking care of the ball was what we had to do,” he said. “We didn’t want to risk throwing it inside and turning it over or getting it blocked when we didn’t have to. So we were able to take care of the ball and get to the free-throw line and that was the difference.”

Fish paced the Jags with 10 points and 10 rebounds in the win. Bowdell added eight points.

Carmona led the way for Crestwood, scoring 12 points in the game. She also led her team in rebounds with seven.

Allen Park will now move on to square off with Dearborn in the district final game on Friday night, in front of their own home fans.

As for the Chargers, who finish the season with an overall record of 14-6, Bright thinks his team will be a force again next season.

“We won our last ten games and had to win out in our league in order to tie (for league championship), and we did that, so I hope our team learned from this run and learned what it takes to get this far,” Bright said. “I’ll have a pretty young team next year with four sophomores but I think we’ll be good again next season. I’m looking forward to it.”

Last Updated: 2/26/2014 11:28:38 PM EST