Memorial Tops Central in Semi-Finals 41-38
By Tuesday and Friday
I head down to watch the Memorial vs Central semifinal of the Central Holiday Tournament and the following sign greets meet at the entrance of the Simon Gym:
NO FIRE COME ON IN
This is when I knew the evening was going to be special. You have to love going to a game at Central when they notify you there's no fire and feel free to come on in to watch some semifinal holiday tournament basketball.
I was fully expecting another close down to the wire Central/Memorial game and that's exactly what transpired. Central started in a zone and dared Memorial to shoot from the outside in the first half. Allie Hartford said thank you very much Central and canned three 3 pointers in the first half. Amra Elezovic hit two 3's in the first half also. Ahh yes Amra Elezovic. When a team plays a zone defense against her the Bantering Bosnian can be at her best. The court becomes her canvas and the basketball is her paint brush to make colorful pictures with.... Like the colorful pass she made to Peace Kabari for a beautiful slash finish to the hoop. Elezovic's court vision is second to none in D1 girls and when she stands with the ball looking to make a play the anticipation is high for Crusaderville, but one of agony for an opponent. Hartford had 9 in the first half with Elezovic's 8 points to give Memorial a 24 - 19 lead at halftime. Central kept it close with the balanced scoring of Chantel Robinson, Zoe Stamoulis and Katherine Johnson.
Central came out in man to man defense to start the 2nd half. This was a good move by Coach Wenners. It slowed the game to a crawl and forced Memorial to really work on offense. Elezovic was negated by some nice defense by Ashley Giampetruzzi. Central outscored Memorial 6 to 4 in the 3rd and they were back in the hunt to go to the championship game. The teams traded baskets in the first 4 minutes of the 3rd period. Peace Kabari fouled out of a game for the 2nd night in a row. Giampetruzzi got hot and hit a couple of hoops to draw Central to within 1 at 33 to 32 with 4 minutes left in the game. Elezovic hit 2 free throws to make it 35 - 32 Memorial with 3:50 left. A Johnson basket made it 35 to 34 with 3:35 to go. Elezovic drew a shooting foul and hit both freebies to put Memorial back up by 3 at 37 to 34.
At this point Central had a few opportunities to score with VERY GOOD looks, but couldn't convert. Super sub Amela Imamovic hit a big bucket just inside the 3 point line to give the Crusaders some breathing room at 39 - 34. Chantel Robinson hit a huge outside shot to cut the Crusader lead to 39 - 36. Memorial did nothing for the next minute and Central missed a couple of more good looks. Johnson was fouled while shooting with 29 seconds left and hit both free throws to make it 39 - 38. Elezovic missed the front end of a one and one with 26 seconds left. Central rimmed out another couple of shots and fouled Elezovic with 5 seconds left. Elezovic drained both free throws. Central had a last gasp that was nullified by a turnover near midcourt.
Neither coach was pleased after the game. Coach Jack Quirk didn't like his team's performance at all. "We weren't clicking out there tonight. We'll have to have a better performance if we want to win the title tomorrow." Coach Wenners impressed upon his team losing tight to Memorial is no consolation. "We have to learn the process of winning basketball games. We will get there and tonight was another step in this process." Wenners lamented about all the missed shots Central had in the 4th period. "We had our chances to score a lot of points in the 4th period. It's a shame we didn't take advantage of our good looks at the basket."
As I left the gym effervescent Amra Elezovic was holding court as usual with a group of friends. When I asked the Bouncy Bosnian what she thought of tonight's effort she said, "I would rather win ugly than lose ugly. I guarantee our team will play better tomorrow." When I said the BayView Academy team looked like a tough competitive bunch of players, Elezovic said, "We'll be ready for them." The POY candidate gave me that confident smile that only she can give.
Memorial will play BayView Academy for the championship at 7:00 pm on Thursday night at Central.