Jackson takes over in fourth, leads Naples girls to crown
AVIANO, Italy — Saturday afternoon was not a good time to play H-O-R-S-E with Sha Jackson.
The Naples senior seemingly couldn’t miss during a four-minute span in the fourth quarter, and the result was a W-I-N for the Wildcats in an intense grudge match with host Aviano.
Jackson had 28 points — including 15 straight for her team in the final period — as Naples topped the Saints 57-49 to win the Mediterranean Basketball Tournament.
“She just took it over,” said Aviano coach Laura Corder-Chavez. “We’ve been playing against her for three years and she’s never had a game like that. She’s a senior and that’s a great way to go out your senior year.”
Neither Naples or Aviano is finished yet, though. Both advance to the European championships next weekend in Germany — their berths were secure before taking the court for the final. But that didn’t mean they didn’t care about the outcome. Bragging rights were on the line for two teams that don’t appear to like each other.
“No they don’t,” agreed Naples coach Craig Lord. “I’m not sure why.”
It’s probably because in recent years, the regular season title and the tournament championship always involve Naples and Aviano. No other team was within double digits of the two schools throughout the tournament.
Aviano, which split two games at Naples during the regular season, probably was the favorite this time because of home court. And the Saints led for most of the way. Jessica Corder, a 5-foot, 11-inch sophomore center, scored 14 points in the first half and Aviano was up 29-24. Naples point guard Michelle Aguila, the smallest player on the floor, kept her team close with nine first-half points.
Naples didn’t score for more than four minutes to open the second half. But then Jackson started to heat up as the Wildcats cut the deficit to 37-36 at the end of three quarters.
Then she caught fire.
Her free throw tied it. A three-pointer with 6:05 left gave Naples its first lead since the opening minutes. Two more free throws, another three-point shot and two other buckets just within the arc put Naples on top 51-41.
Aviano, led by Corder’s 16 points and 15 rebounds, couldn’t close the gap.
Mavis Sanders had eight points and eight rebounds for the Saints. Aguila, named the tournament most valuable player, had 18 points and seven steals for Naples, and center Lyndsey Bearer had a game-high 17 rebounds.