FAIRFAX, Va. — Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.), the No. 8 team in the Super 25 girls basketball rankings, trailed by eight points twice in the first half Saturday and the Panthers were facing their first 0-2 start in forever.
“I almost had a heart attack at halftime because I was really frustrated that we weren’t really competing,” Panthers coach Scott Allen said. “Why are we on our home floor and playing on our heels and not attacking? At halftime, we had an excited halftime speech to try to get them motivated to compete.”
The Panthers responded to the pep talk and finished with an 80-72 defeat of No. 5 Hamilton Heights Christian Academy (Chattanooga, Tenn.) in the Art Turner Tipoff Classic.
Kate Klimkiewicz, a 5-11 forward and a Boston College signee, led Paul VI’s rally, finishing with 22 points, somehow finding open looks underneath against HHCA’s front line that included 6-7 sophomore post Kamilla Cardosa and 6-2 wings Elizabeth Balogun and Treasure Hunt. Junior point guard Ashley Owusu added 19 points for the Panthers.
“We knew we had a really good team and we just had to come out and give 110 percent,” Klimkiewicz said. “We knew if we took off that 10 percent, they’re so huge, if we took off that little bit, we would have lost. You just have to keep playing through it and even though they were really big, we’re used to that in AAU.”
Balogun, a Georgia Tech signee, led the Hawks (6-1) with 22 points and Hunt had 19 points, including 17 in the first half.
A key point in the game came early in the fourth quarter. Balogun had just given HHCA a 58-56 lead on a three-point play. Klimkiewicz came back with a three-pointer at the other end, and Amira Collins, a Tennessee signee, followed with a putback and the Panthers never trailed again.
“The whole big thing with Kate is confidence,” Allen said. “If she sees the ball go in the basket, her defense gets a whole lot better. I thought she did a good job on No. 3 (Jazmine Massengill, a 6-0 Tennessee signee who had seven points). The kid has won almost 100 games in three years and she’s competed at the highest level. That’s the kind of effort we need from her.”
The Hawks were still in range with three minutes to go, trailing 74-69 when Balogun fouled out and Paul VI hit its free throws to ice the win.