It took three missed field goals, four botched free throws and a pair of turnovers for Agassi Prep’s girls basketball team to finally settle into its Class 2A state semifinal game Friday night.
But once the dust settled after nearly three minutes of play and Destiny Rover connected on a deep 3-pointer for the game’s first points, the Stars turned to their defense to cruise to a 61-46 win over White Pine at Del Sol.
“I don’t think we played particularly well tonight, but I’ll take a ‘W’ any way we can get it,” Agassi Prep coach Wendell West said. “(We’ve) got to get some rest tonight because we got a big game tomorrow. We got to play 32 minutes.”
The Agassi Prep defense forced 28 turnovers and held the Bobcats to 35 percent shooting to advance to the first state final appearance in program history. Agassi Prep (21-3) will meet Needles (24-5) in the state final at 2:40 p.m. Saturday at Cox Pavilion. The teams split regular-season meetings. Agassi Prep beat Needles in last week’s Southern League final.
After both teams got off to a rough start Friday, Agassi Prep turned up the full-court pressure to take control. The offense soon followed as the team scored the first 12 points of the game and led 16-4 after one quarter.
“It was probably nerves, but once we got up by 12 (points) we got relaxed,” West said. “We didn’t put our feet on the gas like we should have. We’re going to go back to the drawing board and set it up for tomorrow.”
Sharmayne Finley scored 10 of her team-high 17 points in the second quarter to extend the lead to 32-18 at halftime. Finley also finished with six rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks for Agassi Prep, which led by double-digits for the entire second half.
White Pine pulled within 41-30 — the closest it got in the second half — with 4:05 remaining in the third quarter. But the Stars closed the third quarter on a 5-0 run and opened the fourth with a 9-0 spurt. Agassi Prep led by as many as 26 points in the fourth before West emptied his bench with 3:05 left.
“(Before the runs) I told them, ‘The game’s not over. They’re going to fight so we have to turn it up now,’” West told his players in a timeout. “The bench didn’t give me what I was expecting from them. So, for the future, I know not to empty it so early.”
Denise Parker made three 3-pointers and finished with 16 points, and Rover scored 12 for the Stars, who also got 10 points and 11 rebounds from Lovely Glinton.
“Destiny Rover and Denise Parker both shot the ball very well tonight,” West said. “And Lovely and Raylene (Thomas) control the boards every game for us. That’s big for us.”
Madison Rick led White Pine with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Britney Kingston had 10 points and nine boards for the Bobcats (21-8).
Needles 58, Pershing County 34 — Jayne Antone and Paige Murch scored 12 points apiece to lead a balanced attack as Needles cruised to an easy win over Pershing County in the other semifinal.
Antone also had 11 rebounds and two steals for Needles, which grabbed a 30-9 lead at the break after limiting Pershing County to just three first-half field goals.
The Needles defense forced 16 turnovers and held Pershing County to 14-for-64 (21.9 percent) shooting from the field in the game.
“We did our 2-3 matchup zone, which works well for us when everybody takes care of their responsibilities and pays attention to (weak) side defense,” Needles coach Manuel Calderon said. “We did a good job of that tonight. And they looked a little bit confused at times — not knowing, really, where to go or what to do.”
Brenna Chavez had nine points, nine rebounds and five assists for Needles, and teammate Preslee Murch added nine points and two steals. Within the first six minutes of the game, every Needles starter got on the scoreboard.
“When things are clicking offensively, we’ve got four legit scorers in our first five,” Calderon said. “When they’re all on, it pays big dividends for us. It makes things a little bit easier for us defensively.”
Needles led by 25 points midway through the third quarter but had its biggest lead cut to 39-24 at the end of the quarter after a 3-pointer by Taryn Houston. Pershing County closed the third quarter on an 8-0 run.
“We got a little careless with the basketball,” Calderon said. “Trying to hurry up too much, and we just got away from what we were doing in the first half. And Pershing put a nice couple of back-to-back buckets together and kind of leaked their way into striking distance. Then free throws played a big part for us in the end.”
Needles made 10 of 12 free throws in the second half and finished 15-for-18 from the line.
Houston led Pershing County with 13 points. Anna Vidales had 10 points, and Riley Jaramillo pulled down 10 boards for Pershing County (24-7).