Ft. Worth — Meeting at Chisholm Trail High School in Fort Worth to battle for the 2A Region II Area Playoff Game were the Italy Lady Gladiators (24-8, 6-0) representing District 12 and the Santo Lady Cats (20-8, 8-4) from District 10.
Italy’s starting lineup for the Lady Gladiators consisted of Kortnei Johnson, K’Breona Davis, Emmy Cunningham, Taleyia Wilson and Cory Chance who were introduced before the game.
Italy controlled the opening tip with senior Kortnei Johnson tapping the ball to teammate K’Breona Davis but it was Santo who scored first to take a 2-0 advantage. Italy freshman Emmy Cunningham quickly tied the game 2-2 with a quick release jumper from the right side of the floor. Game on!
Santo put in two free-throws to lead 4-2 but 6’2" Cory Chance secured a loose ball under the basket and then banked it in to retie the game 4-4. Cunningham hit the front end of a two-shot foul to make the score 4-3. The second attempt was off the mark but the rebound went to Italy and Cunningham dropped in her first 3-pointer of the contest. Italy leads 8-4.
Santo scored from the field to keep it close at the 4:53 mark, 8-6. Johnson gets on the board with a short-range shot to push Italy’s lead back to four, 10-6 with 4:15 to play in the first-period. Santo responds with a 3-pointer of their own. Italy leads by whisker over the Lady Cats, 10-9.
Italy’s Taleyia Wilson is fouled in the act of shooting but neither free throw will drop in, 3:26 showing on the clock. Santo ties the game for the third time with a free throw, 10-10. Cunningham then starts a fast break and finds Johnson who finishes it with a lay in, 12-10 Italy leads. Santo ties the match for a fourth time at the 2:20 mark, 12-12, and then takes the lead 13-12 after putting the second of two free throws. Johnson drives to the hoop to regain the lead for Italy 14-13, 1:03 left in the opening frame.
Santo momentarily reclaims the lead 15-14 but a Cunningham 3-pointer, in plenty of time to beat the buzzer, gives Italy a 17-15 lead to end the first-period. It was Cunningham’s second three-ball of the game.
A steal by Santo ties the game for the fifth time, 17-17, to begin the second-period. Lady Gladiator senior K’Breona Davis is fouled shooting but is unable to get either free shot to fall in. Santo takes advantage and scores on fast break to go up 19-17 at the 6:00 mark. Chance asserts her will under the boards to tie the game for the sixth time, 19-19. Moments later, Cunningham lobs a short pass over the top to Chance who makes the catch over her head and then banks in the go-ahead basket. The athletic move by Chance puts Italy back on top, 21-19, with 5:10 to play in the first half.
For the seventh time, Santo ties the contest, 21-21, at the 4:55 mark of the second. Senior guard Tara Wallis back rims a three shot attempt and Santo again has the ball. Italy’s Lillie Perry blocks a shot attempt by the Lady Cats and Davis is tripped up trying to spark a fast break. Perry inbounds the ball from half-court. Davis shoots a pass over to the right for Johnson who drives baseline and then pulls up to swish a tie breaking jumper. Italy leads 23-21.
Italy’s defense rebounds a Santo miss and Johnson is fouled on the way to the hoop after breaking away from the pack. Johnson hits the second of two free shots to give Italy a 24-21 edge. Wilson and company secure another miss by Santo resulting in a pair of free-throws for Cunningham at the other end of the floor. Cunningham drops in both freebies to increase Italy’s advantage, 26-21, 1:56 left before intermission.
Unshaken, the Lady Cats answer with a 3-pointer at the 1:42 mark. Italy still leads 26-24. Both team’s trade misses and then Davis passes ahead to Cunningham who completes the fast break opportunity to grow Italy’s lead, 28-24, with 0:55 remaining. Santos hits the back-end of a two-shot foul to close the distance, 28-25.
With 0:30 and ticking down, Cunningham drops in a dagger 3-pointer and Italy goes up 31-24. Johnson finishes a fast break chance after a Santo miss. Italy now leads 33-25. Johnson tries to fit in one more quick break layup but that shot rolls off the rim and the buzzer blares ending the intense first-half action.
Chance scores inside and pushes Italy’s lead to ten, 35-25, to get the Lady Gladiators off to a good start in the third-period. Santos counters with a 3-pointer, 35-28. Johnson is fouled at the 6:49 mark and drains both free shots. Italy leads 37-28. Santo then scores 5 straight points to force Lady Gladiator head coach Melissa Fullmer to call a timeout with the score 37-33.
Wilson secures the ball near the basket and finds teammate Janae Robertson open in the middle of the lane. Robertson scores at the front of the rim and Italy leads 39-33 with 3:52 on the clock. Santo hits from the field. Robertson feeds a pass to Johnson who turns the pass into an assist. Italy leads 41-35. Santo hits another 3-pointer and hits 1-of-2 from the line to stay within striking distance, 41-39, with 1:42 to play in the third.
Johnson drives all the way to the basket and gets an underhanded shot from under the hoop to go in, increasing Italy’s lead to 43-39. The last 1:30 ticks away as both sides scramble for one last shot. Santo has a chance on a breakaway but Robertson hustles down to poke the ball out-of-bounds as the third-period buzzer sounds. The effort by Robertson secured Italy’s 4-point edge going into the final stanza.
The final 8 minutes got off to a rocky start for the Lady Gladiators when Cunningham had to take a seat at the 7:33 mark after being charged with her fourth foul. Two consecutive shooting fouls charged to Italy and four made free throws by Santo tie the duel for the eighth time, 43-43. A jumper by Santo finds the bottom of the net and the Lady Cats retake the lead, 45-43. Johnson commits her third foul and is not happy with the call. Santos makes the second of two free shots to go up 46-43. 6:18 remains in the game.
Chance draws a shooting foul and swishes in the backend of a two free throws to make the score, 46-44, with the score still in favor of the Lady Cats. Tight defense by Italy’s Davis forces Santo head coach Tony Raffaele to call a timeout.
Italy gains control of the ball after the pause and Cunningham finds Chance inside who banks in the shot to tie the game for the ninth time, 46-46. 5:00 remain.
On the other end, Wilson is called for a questionable over-the-back call and Santos is rewarded with two shots from the stripe. Santo’s first attempt counts, as does their second try and the Lady Cats again have the lead, 47-46.
Robertson passes inside to Chance who spins and shoots over two Cat paws to tie the game for the tenth and final time, 48-48. Chance was fouled on the shot attempt, as well, but is unable to sink the bonus try.
Back-to-back trips to the line results in two made free throws for Santo who go up 50-48. With 3:27 remaining, Cunningham is fouled after releasing a 3-point shot attempt. The bomb by Cunningham misfired but she gets one of her three foul shots to go in.
Cunningham has a chance to intercept a pass and is clobbered by a Lady Cat after breaking up the pass. No call is made by the officials and Santo scoops up the loose ball to score and get the and-1. Italy’s fans are stunned as Santo capitalizes on their three-point opportunity to take a 53-49 lead with 2:49 still to play.
Italy has the ball but there is a traffic jam in the corner so Coach Fullmer calls a timeout with 2:03 on the clock. When action resumes, Wilson passes to Cunningham who is fouled in the act of shooting while attacking the basket. Cunningham rolls in the second foul shot to make the score 53-50.
After some back-and-forth, Johnson breaks away with the ball and passes to Chance who is open on the right block. Chance is fouled in the act by a Lady Cat and goes to the line for two free throws. Chance sinks both foul shots to pull the Lady Gladiators within 1-point of Santo, 53-52.
Santo then plays stall-ball as the game rolls into the final minute. The Lady Cats execute their time-wasting plan to perfection with neither Cunningham or Johnson able to foul without fouling out of the contest. Chance is finally called for a foul with 18.5 remaining. Santo hits the first foul shot. Coach Fullmer calls another timeout to ice the shooter and game plan Italy’s next offensive possession.
After both teams settle back in around the lane, the Lady Cat shooter swishes the second free shot to boost Santo’s advantage to 55-52. Italy manages to get the ball across mid court, and in the madness, Davis passes over to Cunningham who steps into an open look at a 3-point attempt. The shot hits the back of the rim and Santos collects the rebound. The Lady Cats scramble to dribble out the last seconds, and after a purposeful foul attempt by Chance goes uncalled, a foul committed by Cunningham is. Just 1.7 remains.
Cunningham, Italy’s best long-range shooter, fouls out with the Lady Gladiators trailing by three. Santo makes the resulting pair of free throws to put the game out-of-reach. Down five but not giving up, Davis receives the inbound pass and launches a three-quarter court shot. The ball, and the season, lands short of the goal for the Lady Gladiators with the final buzzer barely heard over the roaring cheers of the underdog Lady Cats and their fans.
Santo 57. Italy 52.
Although it ended sooner than we all wanted, the Italy Lady Gladiators finish the 2014-2015 season as area finalists while posting a 25-8, 6-0 record after going undefeated in district play and earning an automatic bi-district championship. And as far as the playoffs go, “We Will Return!”
Lady Gladiator Scoring and Playoff Game Roster:
2 – Emmy Cunningham – 18 (three 3-pointers)
3 – Kortnei Johnson (Sr.) – 17
4 – Tara Wallis (Sr.)
5 – Janae Robertson – 2
10 – K’Breona Davis (Sr.)
11 – T’Keyah Pace
12 – Alex Minton-Felder (Sr.)
13 – Brycelen Richards
22 – Taleyia Wilson
24 – Lillie Perry
25 – Lizzie Garcia
33 – Cory Chance – 15
40 – Vanessa Cantu
Brooke DeBorde (Injured)
Annie Perry (Injured)
Head Coach – Melissa Fullmer
Assistant Coaches – Tina Richards, Nicole Tindol
Managers – Rebekah Corley, Brenya Williams
Athletic Director – Charles Tindol
Principal – Lee Joffre
Superintendent – Jamie Velasco
Bookkeeper – Rita Garza
Clock Keeper – Greg Richards
Booster Club President – Amanda Connor
From the line:
Santo: 21-out of-30 made
Italy: 11-out of-21 made