The top two girls' basketball teams in the Academic Athletic Association gave spectators at Kezar Pavilion a scintillating show Friday night.
In a see-saw affair that left both teams exhausted afterward, Lowell High School survived 50-44 against a gritty Galileo High School team, winning its fifth straight AAA-San Francisco Section championship and going undefeated against league opponents all season.
With 16 seconds left in the game and trailing 46-44, Galileo had a chance to either tie or take the lead, but senior guard Cassidy Chan's 3-pointer from the left wing was just off the mark. Seconds later, Lowell senior Kelly Wong hit two free throws to put the Cardinals up 48-44 and seal the deal on another title.
“I said it was going to be close because Galileo is a good team, and I told [Galileo] that afterwards,” Lowell coach Aki Kuwada said. “We made an adjustment at halftime and went to a matchup zone because Galileo was quicker than us tonight. But I can't believe how resilient this team is. Wow.”
For only the second time all season against a AAA foe, Lowell trailed at halftime, 21-19. In the first half, the game was literally a game of runs, as Galileo came out of the gate showing no fear against Lowell, opening up a 10-4 lead. However, Lowell answered with a 15-0 run of its own, and looked like it was on its way to running away with the game.
But after going scoreless for the first 5:59 of the second quarter, the Lions stormed back with an 11-0 run, capped off by senior Sarah Lim's 3-pointer.
The resolve Galileo showed throughout the fourth quarter in an attempt to win the school's first title since 1980-81 was something that had Lions coach Jeremy Lee upbeat about afterward.
“I thought it was a really well played game on both sides,” Lee said. “We couldn't hit that one shot, get that one stop, but I told the girls afterwards, as long as they put everything out on the court, they had nothing to be ashamed of.”
Lowell led throughout the second half, eventually building a 38-29 lead on sophomore forward Francesca Baldwin's layup. Baldwin led the Cardinals with 14 points, as she was the focal point of their offense, but the nine-point lead was barely enough.
Led by Chan's team-high 13 points, Galileo chipped away at Lowell's lead and kept it within a basket for the majority of last four minutes of the game. Kuwada knows that it was anybody's ballgame.
“That could have gone either way,” Kuwada said. “No matter how much we led by, we knew they'd come back. But again, this is satisfying because we only have one girl back from last season's championship. These girls came a long way.”