Versatile Tapusoa carries Panthers past Coronado

At 5 feet 8 inches tall and with a muscular build, there’s little choice but to list Lily Tapusoa as a post player on Palo Verde’s girls basketball roster.

On the floor, however, there’s little the senior can’t do.

Tapusoa scored 19 points, showed great range on her jump shot, handled the ball well and collected four assists Monday to help the Panthers open the Sierra Vista Invitational with a 58-56 victory over Coronado.

“It is a plus for us, but it’s really more of a necessity,” Palo Verde coach Phil Clarke said of Tapusoa’s versatility. “She’s kind of our mismatch person. When they had one of their smaller guards on her, we put her in the post. If they put a post on her, she can come out.”

Most post players spend the bulk of their time within a few feet of the basket.

With her team’s top scoring option — wing Jasmin Kiley — closely guarded in the second half, Tapusoa drifted to the top of the key and made 18-foot jumpers on consecutive possessions late in the third quarter. The baskets turned a 37-36 deficit into a 40-37 lead, and Palo Verde (5-2) never trailed again.

In the third quarter Tapusoa scored 10 points and had two assists. Kiley, who scored 15 of her 18 points in the first half, was held to just three shots and two points in the quarter.

“It’s great to have someone like Jasmin, but we have to have that second or third scorer step up,” Clarke said.

The Panthers extended their lead to 55-43 with less than four minutes to play, but had to survive a missed 3-point try at the buzzer.

Coronado went on a 7-0 run, pulling within 55-50 on Lexi Melone’s jumper with 2:25 left, and Palo Verde began to panic on offense, repeatedly turning over the ball and hurrying shots.

“We’re not very deep, and some of the people we had handle the ball were tired,” said Clarke, whose team lost to Gleneagle (Canada) 42-35 later Monday. “They hurried us, and we played right into their hands.”

Sofie Cruz’s runner in the paint with 42 seconds left brought the Cougars (4-3) to within 56-54. Kiley hit one of two free throws with 20.7 seconds to go, and Melone countered with a drive into the paint with 11 seconds left.

Tapusoa made one of two free throws with four seconds to go, giving Coronado one last chance, but Cruz’s 22-footer from just to the left of the top of the key came up short.

Melone finished with 22 points, and Cruz scored 17 for Coronado.

Contact reporter Bartt Davis at bdavis@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5230.

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