When Colgan forward Alyssa Andrews picked up her third foul early in the second quarter of the Sharks’ Group 6, Region B championship game against Osbourn Park, it could have been disastrous, both for Andrews, the co-region player of the year, and Colgan.
But instead Andrews stepped up her game from that point, fueling an 11-2 second quarter run with nine points in the quarter for the Sharks that propelled them to an 18-12 halftime lead.
Yet, in a game that was riveting and gym-rattling from start to finish, one of the area’s best girls’ high school playoff basketball games in recent memory came down to a three-point attempt by Osbourn Park’s Jo Raflo with 2.1 seconds to go that just caromed off the left edge of the rim, to preserve Colgan’s 46-43 victory.
Moments later, an excited Andrews and her teammates (as well as many students) mobbed each other near center court to celebrate Colgan’s first regional title in the school’s four-year history, even before the post-game handshakes and the presentation of the regional championship trophy by Colgan principal Dr. Timothy Healey.
That Osbourn Park (19-7), which was seeking its first regional title since 2010, was even in that spot was a credit to opportunistic defense late in the game. After Andrews made a free throw with 12.1 seconds left that gave the Sharks the lead by the final margin, Osbourn Park coach Chrissy Kelly called timeout in an apparent attempt to “ice” Andrews. When the second attempt missed, there was a scramble for the rebound that resulted in Colgan’s getting the ball on the alternating possession.
Alas, staunch defense by Osbourn Park caused a turnover, which resulted in the ball getting to Raflo, usually a three-point specialist, near the left side of the three-point line. When Raflo released it, the ball appeared to be on target and several Osbourn Park fans shouted in joy, but the ball narrowly missed and fell to the floor as the final buzzer sounded.
Kelly said the last look was just about the way she had drawn it up.
“We got the shot we wanted and had the person we wanted taking it,” Kelly said. “It just didn’t fall. But the reason we lost was a lack of execution and Colgan’s talent. Andrews is great, fun to watch, except when you are an opposing coach. She’s the real deal. We didn’t have an answer for any of Colgan’s [players].”
Colgan (21-5), winners of 12 consecutive games, will play host to a yet-to-be-determined opponent from Region A this Friday at 6 p.m. at Hylton High School, thanks to Andrews’ 22-point performance that included 10 of the Sharks’ 13 points in the final quarter. The Region A final is Monday between James River and Western Branch.
Early on, Colgan’s tenacious defense, fueled by energetic play at guard by junior Kennedy Fuller, helped Colgan take a 7-2 lead, forcing the Yellow Jackets to miss their first six three-point attempts; Osbourn Park shot just 14 percent (2 of 14) from three-point range overall.
But Osbourn Park was able to get inside for layups and took advantage, scoring eight unanswered points to take a 10-7 lead after one quarter.
Then Andrews, who notched a game-high 22 points, took over. When she got the ball in the paint several times, she deftly reversed her body, drove in for the layup, and drew fouls that sent her to the line four different times in the quarter. Andrews, who was a bit subdued early, soon pumped her fist and clapped her hands with an emotion level that sustained itself the rest of the game. Colgan’s 11-2 second quarter gave the Sharks an 18-12 lead.
Colgan led by as many as 10 at 33-23 later in the game, but Osbourn Park rallied back, pulling within 44-43 on a three-pointer by Alexis Harju with 1:08 to play. But then Andrews made free throws when she had to, which was reminiscent of the character and composure the Sharks have shown all year, Colgan coach Fred Milbert said.
“We were down 13 to Woodbridge and 14 to Stonewall [Jackson] and came back to win,” Milbert said. “This is the kind of composure we have shown in a lot of situations. We are building [to a deep playoff run]; we haven’t reached the peak [by winning the regional title].”
For her part, Andrews agreed with Milbert.
“It feels surreal [to win the regional title] right now, but we have to humble ourselves, get back in the gym, and keep working,” Andrews said.
As he has all season, Milbert raved about Andrews’ play. He said she showed why she was the co-region player of the year with her performance on Friday.
“Alyssa knows how to play the game and knows when to take over,” Milbert said. “She knows how to remain calm and collected. For her to play more than half a game with three fouls [and not pick up another one] says something. She showed why she’s the player of the year.”
Colgan also got a lift from Kennedy Fuller, whose energy on both ends of the floor was unmatched by anyone from either team from start to finish. Three times she stole the ball at about a quarter of the way up the floor, sped past half court and drove in for a layup with about three seconds elapsing each time. Fuller scored half of her 14 points in the third quarter to help the Sharks maintain the six-point halftime lead they enjoyed.
“[When they started to come back] we looked at each other during one of the timeouts and said, ‘Y’all, this is our game. We just knew we had to stay focused,” Fuller said of the team’s ability to hold off a late charge by the Yellow Jackets. “We practice being tough on defense and shoot free throws every practice and in the end those things mattered.”
A key disparity pointed out by Kelly was the fact that Colgan shot 24 free throws (making 18) to Osbourn Park’s five, which were all made. But ultimately, Kelly said it was a lack of execution and not having an answer for Colgan’s depth that were the deciding factors.
Kelly said she hopes her team can learn from a loss like this.
“They wanted to go back [into the locker room] after the game instead of staying out there for the trophy ceremony,” Kelly said. “But I think it was important to know what it feels like [to come up short] and it’s also important to give Colgan their due. They played great up and down their roster tonight.”
OSBOURN PARK (19-7) Powell 5 1-1 11, Kellogg 2 0-0 4, Raflo 3 0-0 7, Lemanski 3 0-0 6, Harju 1 2-2 5, Osaru 2 0-0 4, Epps 1 2-2 4, Scarborough 1 0-0 2. 18 5-5 43.
COLGAN (21-5) Andrews 5 10-15 22, Ray 1 0-0 2, Perryman 1 3-4 5, Fuller 5 4-5 14, Rodas 1 0-0 3.
Halftime score—Colgan, 18-12. Three-point goals—Osbourn Park 2 (Raflo, Harju), Colgan 3 (Andrews 2, Rodas). Fouled out—Osbourn Park—Lemanski, Scarborough; Colgan—none. Technical fouls—none.