KEZAR PAVILION — Urban junior point guard Rain Sheh stepped to the free throw line with 10.5 seconds left in Thursday’s Bay County League West semifinal, sitting on a game-high 12 points after being fouled by University’s Ella Pearl at mid-court.
Leading 36-35, Sheh bounced her try off the front of the rim. Dominant rebounder Grace Feinberg went up for the board, and pushed it up to Daniella Resch, who found Lily Battat down low. Giving up at least three inches to Battat, Adriana Carnecer stood in the lane as head coach Maya Fok held her breath.
Carnecer — who had only played in two games since being cleared for action after undergoing ACL surgery — blocked Battat’s lay-up attempt, grabbed the loose ball and dribbled out the clock, ensuring that the Blues, with a 36-35 win, will advance to the BCL West finals for the second year in a row.
“All I know is I was the first one back on defense, and there were two players, but I knew I had to stop the ball, and I saw her coming at me, so I told myself, ‘Don’t have a stupid foul, and do not flop, just keep your hands straight up.’ I was just like, ‘Don’t let go of the ball until you hear the final horn.'”
This season, Urban and University split their two meetings in two very different games. In the first match-up on Jan. 2, the Blues blitzed the Red Devils, 57-34. In the second meeting, at University, the Red Devils won 50-42.
“The first game, we had a tougher preseason, so I think that’s what prepared us for our first game in league,” Fok said. “We were just ready to go. The second game, we were low on numbers all season. I think that the big court hurt us a little bit tonight. I thought it would help us. It helped us as far as getting some transition. When we lost at their court, the small court really helped them. They were able to press us. It was easier to double and triple team.”
It’s appropriate that Carnecer was the one to clinch the win. She tore her ACL three minutes into the second quarter of last year’s 45-41 loss to Lick-Wilmerding.
“Completely torn,” Carnecer said. “I got the steal, I was at the 3-point line, and I was trying to get past the defender, and my knee just gave out and I collapsed.”
Carnecer’s first half was rough. She didn’t have a single point, went 0-for-2 shooting and had a shot blocked, and she struggled at times to get up and down the court.
“I was really getting mad at myself, and knew that I had to make it up in the second half,” Carnecer said. “That’s what mattered.”
Luckily for Carnecer and the Blues, Sheh went off for 10 points in the first quarter, giving Urban a 19-18 lead.
“They literally had to throw the whole team at her, they had to double and triple team her every time she had it,” Fok said of Sheh. “We needed other players to step up.”
After halftime, University swarmed Sheh, with Feinberg playing lock-down, physical defense. Carnecer and others were tasked with trying to limit her influence.
“She’s a little out of control,” Fok said of Feinberg. “Just don’t get hurt, keep her in front and try to box out, that’s it. She gets away with a lot of fouls. That’s just the way she plays. She plays really hard. She plays very hard, she plays bully ball, but I’m just proud of our girls for hanging in there.”
Limited to just eight players due to various injuries, Urban turned to Samantha Wong in the second half, as she scored seven of her nine points in the third quarter.
“We were tired, not going to lie,” Fok said.
No Red Devil scored more than seven points, but all but two players who saw the floor scored at least two, with seven coming from Pearl.
A three by Wong from beyond the boys’ 3-point line gave Urban a 27-25 lead in the final minute of the third quarter, but then Pearl hit a triple less than 10 seconds later took the lead back for the Blues, 28-27.
“They had a great game plan,” Fok said. “I knew they would. It was an ugly win, but I’ll take it.”
The Blues (16-9, 8-2 in BCL) will now face Lick-Wilmerding (21-5, 9-1) on Saturday at 2 p.m. for the tournament title. The Tigers beat San Domenico 60-47 in the other semifinal on Wednesday.