With the Georgia power charging back, Chandler Seton junior Sarah Barcello took a charge that keyed the win Monday afternoon.
The 2015-16 Big Schools Girls Basketball Player of the Year held steady as 6-foot-1 Maya Dodson plowed her over, forcing a turnover with 2:01 left and Seton holding on to a four-point lead.
A minute later, Barcello faked out a defender and scored on a drive, as Seton held on for a 48-43 victory over St. Francis in the first round of the Joe Smith Division of the Nike Tournament of Champions at Gilbert Mesquite.
Barcello finished with 23 points and also made a clutch steal with three minute left when it was a four-point game.
Joe Smith is the toughest of the five TOC girls basketball brackets.
Seton (12-0), the defending state champion, advances to play Colorado power Grandview, which stunned No. 2 nationally ranked San Jose (Calif.) Archbishop Mitty 54-53 before Seton took the court on Monday. The Seton-Grandview game will be played Tuesday at 4:30 at Mesquite.
FIND A GAME: High school girls basketball scores, schedule
Grandview won’t be as big as Alpharetta (Ga.) St. Francis, which was led by 6-3 Kasiyahna Kushkituah, who has signed with Tennessee. St. Francis featured four players who signed with Division I colleges, including Stanford-bound Dodson and Georgia Tech-bound point guard Taja Cummings, who helped St. Francis cut a 19-point deficit to two, 42-40, with 2:34 left.
Dodson had eight of her 11 points in the final quarter.
Seton couldn’t keep up its torrid pace in the game’s first 12 minutes when it had a 29-8 lead, thanks to five 3-pointers, two each by Barcello and guard Kendall Krick.
Seton, ranked 24th nationally by USA TODAY, made 10 of its first 12 shots and held St. Francis scoreless during a four-minute span in the opening quarter, building a 14-point lead.
“We had given up eight points in (the first) 12 minutes (of the game) and we gave up nine points in the last four minutes of the second quarter,” coach Karen Self said. “I knew our kids were tired.
“You could see. We shot a terrible percentage in the second half.”
Most of Seton’s points in the second half came on drives. Barcello had eight points and an assist in the second half. Mainly, it was her composure, making the smart passes, playing solid defense and picking and choosing her spots to score when St. Francis was making a comeback big that keyed Seton’s biggest win of the season.
Seton, for the most part, did a great job of escaping St. Francis’ full-court traps and pressure.
“We prepared to not get caught up in the fast-paced game,” Barcello said. “We focus on ourselves and don’t worry about the other team. We just focus on what we can control.”
With 6-4 LeeAnne Wirth and 6-3 sister Jenn collapsing on St. Francis’ big players inside, it seemed to throw off their shooters.
“We figured if they’re going to beat us, we’re going to make the beat us from outside,” Self said.
Self realizes it only gets tougher from here.
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