YORKTOWN — Just a couple minutes into the fourth quarter, Wapahani girls basketball coach Brad Cutter called a timeout.
His team was trailing Yorktown by 11. They were being beaten on the boards, with Yorktown’s Jenna Irelan was leading the charge. Wapahani went on to win in overtime 51-47, but at the time, Cutter needed a spark, trailing 40-29.
He called for the 2-2-1 full court press, an attempt to force turnovers knowing he had nowhere else to turn. It wasn’t without risk.
The Raiders hadn’t practiced it all season.
“I called that timeout and told them, ‘I need you to give me everything you’ve got,'” Cutter said. “‘Pressure, have active hands, and what a response they gave me.”
The Raiders responded immediately as Kambrey Jolley knocked down a 3, followed by a fast break layup with five minutes left. She finished with 11 points.
After the lead was cut to 42-39, Payton Jones swiped the ball from a Yorktown (4-3) ball-handler and scored on the fast break.
The pressure defense was working, and Yorktown’s energy level dipped. Yorktown coach Joy Matthews didn’t think the pressure defense had much of an impact and attributed the quick turnaround to the lack of energy.
“We had to be more competitive in the half court during the third quarter, that’s where I feel like momentum shifted,” she said. “We make a few more baskets and it’s a different outcome.”
Jolley knocked down two free throws to give Wapahani a 43-42 lead before Kaci Mangus was fouled and also knocked down a pair with one minute remaining.
The ball went to Yorktown’s leading scorer, Irelan. She banked in a layup and was fouled, converting the free throw and sending the game into overtime after Wapahani’s last-second shot missed.
The Raiders learned there was nothing easy about being undefeated but now were in a position to finally end the contest. They had four minutes to extend their record to 9-0 when just minutes earlier, it seemed destined for 8-1.
Jolley admitted to feeling the pressure of an undefeated season.
“I felt it somewhat, but I knew we have so much confidence in each other that we’d be good to go,” she said.
She started overtime by hitting a basket to give her team the lead. Payten Lee hit a free throw before Irelan knocked down a pair of her own to cut Wapahani’s lead to 48-47.
With physicality increasing and neither team willing to give up any space in the paint to offensive players who were driving, trips to the charity stripe were becoming common.
So when Mangus stepped to the line with 24 seconds remaining and Wapahani leading 48-47, she was putting the two free throws she missed in the second quarter behind her.
She nailed both of them, putting her team up by three. Payton Johns later sealed the game with a free throw of her own.
I’d be easy for Mangus to feel pressure, with the game and an undefeated season on the line.
“I didn’t feel any at all,” she said.
Contact prep sports reporter David Polaski at (765) 213-5848.