The rubber match between the Toledo Waite Lady Indians and the Central Catholic Lady Irish was as exciting as it gets. The game had a little bit of everything and, in the end, both teams had a chance to win it in the last 30 seconds. It was the more experienced Lady Irish that eked out a 65-64 victory. Central’s narrow win earned them their second consecutive district title and a date in Norwalk on Tuesday in the regional semifinals.
The game was a see-saw affair throughout the entire 32 minutes. Neither team seemed poised to deliver a knock-out punch.
Typical of the game was the final seconds of the first quarter. With only 41 seconds remaining, the Lady Irish were enjoying a 18-12 lead and were positioned to increase this lead when suddenly the wheels fell off. In those final 40 seconds the Indians scored four quick points including a half-court three-pointer by Natasha Howard.
The second quarter was not kind to Central either.
Central Catholic coach Steve Pfahler elected to sit senior point guard Sharise Calhoun for the duration of the second quarter due to her having picked up two personal fouls in the first quarter. Going with less experienced personnel, the Irish struggled to score.
The Indians’ Kenya Middlebrooks meanwhile caught fire by scoring 7 of her 18 points in the second quarter. By halftime, the Irish had not only lost their precarious three point lead but had also fallen behind 33-30.
The second half was a game of surges.
The first surge was an 13-2 run by the Irish that saw them come from being down 47-43 to take a 56-49 lead with four and a half minutes remaining in the game. With the lead and the momentum it appeared that the Irish would cruise toward another district title but the Waite Lady Indians were not done.
After struggling in the closing minutes of the third quarter and the opening minutes of the fourth, the Indians demonstrated how explosive they can be as they went on their own surge and scored the game’s next eight points in less than a minute. It was a lead Waite would not relinquish until the game’s final 20 seconds when two untimely turnovers resulted in the Lady Irish being able to climb ahead, 65-64.
“Shots went in for them and didn’t go in for us,” said Waite coach Manny May.
“We just happen to get the breaks at the right time,” said Pfahler.
For the victorious Irish there were many different heroes but it was post player Brianna Jones who led the way offensively with 17 points and completed her double-double by pulling down 17 rebounds as well. Fellow Irish starters, seniors Sharise Calhoun and Katelyn Nowacki, added 16 each.
As has been the case all season, the Lady Indians were led by sophomore Natasha Howard. Howard was virtually unstoppable in the first half when she scored 16 and cleaned the glass for 11 rebounds. In the second half she was not nearly as dominant but still finished leading both teams in scoring and rebounding with 22 and 19, respectively. Waite’s only senior, Kenya Middlebrook, finished her Waite career with a flurry as she contributed 18 points.
“The bottom line,” said Waite coach Manny May, “is that sometimes you have to have everyone on the same page and doing the right thing. We had some kids that are young, that are sophomores. They have improved. For the most part my sophomores have improved this year and I am very proud of all of them and my senior.”