Menwith Hill girls rally for D-III championship
Stars and Stripes February 26, 2011
MANNHEIM, Germany — It took most of the game for the Menwith Hill Lady Mustangs to get in gear, but they kicked it into overdrive at the end to come away with the DODDS Europe Division III girls basketball title.
Top-seeded Menwith Hills outscored second-seeded Rota 18-3 in the fourth period to claim a 38-35 victory and improve on last season’s runner-up finish.
It was expected to be a close game as the two teams met twice in January and Menwith Hill won both games by a combined six points. But after the Lady Admirals blazed out to a 32-20 lead, it looked as if the Mustangs’ chance of winning a third time was not good.
“They want to win the championship more than you do,” Menwith Hill coach Kathleen Ojeda told her players during a timeout when the Lady Mustangs were trailing by 10.
Menwith Hill was having a hard time slowing down the scrappy and determined Lady Admirals. Led by 11 points, 13 rebounds and three assists from senior Bri’anna Am’mons, Rota - which led 20-14 at halftime - had a double-digit lead going into the final six minutes.
“I thought maybe we had it right here … we got some good passes in and nice jump shots,” said Am’mons, who fouled out with 4:15 left.
Menwith Hill had other plans. “Don’t give up, we worked too hard to give up,” Menwith Hill senior Rachael Solini told her teammates.
Senior Monique McCreary and sophomore Kaia Pierce responded, leading a late charge that allowed the Lady Mustangs to creep back.
“Slow down, ball control,” Rota coach Edward DeMeritt barked from the sideline as he saw turnovers mount and his team’s lead shrink.
McCreary and Pierce each chipped in six points during the fourth quarter to finally snag the lead with less than four minutes to play. Despite losing McCreary to a knee injury with two minutes left on a hard Rota foul, the Lady Mustangs held on.
“We just played harder in the second half,” said McCreary, who was the team’s high scorer with 16. Pierce added 14 to the Menwith Hill effort.
Despite the fourth quarter meltdown, DeMerritt said he couldn’t be prouder of his Lady Admirals.
“It was a good season, real scrappy players,” DeMerritt said. “We’ll be back next year; we’ll do it again.”
Ojeda said her kids were determined not to repeat her team’s 2010 fate, when they lost by four points in the final.
“They know how that feels, they just decided we’re gonna fight our way back into this game,” Ojeda said.
Pierce perhaps summed up the feelings of her team in one word when asked what it felt like to be a European champion.
“Wow,” she said.