They have been to the PSAL B championship game for two straight years, but stamping their ticket for a third straight trip was in serious doubt for the John Adams girls basketball team Sunday at St. Johns Universitys Alumni Hall.
On the bench was the starting backcourt of seniors Nicola Moore and Francesca Romano, as the second-seeded Spartans trailed No. 3 Benjamin Banneker, 29-23, late in the third quarter.
Moore, the teams point guard, fouled out and Romano, who leads Adams in scoring averaging 16 points a game, also sat with four fouls. In order to get back to the title tilt, the Spartans needed someone from the supporting cast to pick up their game.
Enter Deena Felix and Alexis Olmeda.
Felix scored a team-high 13 points, including an open layup to give the Spartans its first lead of the second half, and Olmeda broke a 43-43 tie with a huge three-pointer with 1:19 left in the fourth quarter to lead John Adams to a 48-46 victory.
The Spartans (23-4) will face No. 5 Bronx Leadership (23-3) in the PSAL Class B championship game Thursday at 5 p.m. at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights. The Lady Wolves defeated eighth-seeded Wingate, 57-47, in the other semifinal Sunday.
I just tried to zone out and act like Im playing at practice, said Felix, a senior guard who averages 5.9 points per game. When it got down to the end though, I felt a lot of pressure. I was really nervous, [Romano] had to calm me down.
Felix had good reason to be jittery. Romanos made free throw put the Spartans ahead, 47-43, with 23.5 seconds left, but Banneker leading scorer Caress Lovelace (16 points) came down court and nailed a three-pointer from the left side with 12.3 seconds left to cut the Adams lead to one.
Banneker (24-3) forced a turnover on the inbound and Lesia Wynn (10 points) had a great chance to put her team in front, but missed an open runner in the lane with three seconds left. Aisha Cardoza grabbed the rebound and hit a free throw with 1.4 seconds left to seal the win.
This feels great, said Romano, who added 11 points in limited minutes. I cant wait to play the next game. I cant stand sitting on the bench.
But for huge chunks of the first and second halves, thats exactly where Romano was. She picked up her first foul just three seconds into the game and was then nailed with her second with 4:35 left in the first quarter.
Banneker led 17-8 late in the first quarter, but Romano came back in the game and capped the first quarter with an end-to-end layup. Felix added an eight-foot jumper to open the second quarter and the Adams deficit was slashed in half.
But Romano picked up her third foul away from the ball with 5:46 left in the half and Adams head coach Harold Krieger was forced to sit her back on the bench for the remainder of the half.
The Spartans finished the second quarter strong, taking a 23-21 lead into the locker room thanks to Olmedas pull-up 12-footer. The basket with 44 seconds left in the first half was the first of Olmeda's seven points.
I had to step up, we werent going to lose, said Olmeda, a sophomore guard who averages 1.8 points per game. I just took a deep breath and thought that I could do it.
After defeating Bryant in the championship game two years ago, Adams fell to South Shore in last year's final, 47-42 in overtime.
Every one on this team does something well and they all helped each other, Krieger said. We had every reason to quit. Francesca was on the bench with four fouls, Nicola fouled out. But Francesca kept herself in the game and was a calming influence and I can't sing the praises of Alexis and Deena more.
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.
©2002 Community News Group
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