Chandler Hamilton hasn’t faced many close games among the eight in a row it’s won in the 2007-2008 prep girls basketball season. Thursday afternoon looked to be another one of those at halftime.
But the Huskies got a game in the second half from a previously undefeated Arapahoe High (Littleton, Colo.) squad and showed they could handle late pressure. The result was a 64-59 win over the Warriors in quarterfinal play in the Gold Division of the Nike Tournament of Champions I at Chandler High.
Hamilton senior guard Brianna Brown finished with a team-high 16 points. She made all six of her fourth-quarter free throws and set up baskets with penetration in the final period that allowed Hamilton to improve to 9-0 and reach today’s semifinals. Hamilton faces Canyon Springs of Moreno Valley Calif., at 4:20 p.m. today at Chandler High. Canyon Springs knocked off Tempe Marcos de Niza 58-51 in another Gold Division quarterfinal game. Hamilton edged Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) 55-51 in the opening round on Wednesday.
“This was the kind of game we needed,” first-year Hamilton coach Jeff Kain said. “We let the lead almost get away. Down the stretch we held together. Bri is a very good leader. You can count on her to be there at the end.”
With the help of 3 1/2 solid minutes in the second period from Hamilton’s reserves, the Huskies took a 21-13 lead and increased it to 33-18 by halftime. Chelcee Pullam, Tara Curry and Ariel Marlor combined for 11 points during the spurt that caused Arapahoe coach Ron Burgi to harshly chastise his team during a timeout in the quarter.
“When they came in it in energized us,” Cain said of his bench players. “It was a big lift and we got our starters some rest after they played the first quarter plus.”
The tongue-lashing by Burgin made an impact as Arapahoe sliced the lead to four points by the end of the third period. Arapahoe (7-1) moved within 56-54 with 1:40 to play. The Warriors fouled Hamilton’s Sarah Nicholson, who sank two free throws. After a stop on the next possession, Brown coaxed a foul and made two more free throws to extend the lead to 60-54.
A 3-pointer by Arapahoe’s Diana Hentschel made it 60-57 with 46 seconds left. Brown made sure the lead stayed safe, breaking Arapahoe’s press and feeding Pua Resor for a layup — the last of Resor’s 14 points. Brown iced it with two more free throws with six seconds left.
Hamilton had balanced scoring beyond Brown and Resor. Pullam totaled 10 points, Sam St. Vincent seven and Nicholson nine. Arapahoe’s Caitlin Durkin scored a game-high 22 points, 20 in the second half.