Behind by 15 points in the opening minutes of the second half, Paint Branch High School girls basketball coach Rochelle Coleman didn't question her team's ability or desire to beat Tuscarora.
After allowing the Titans to dictate the tempo for the first two-and-a-half quarters, the Panthers regained control of the gamed a pulled off the come-from-behind victory to win the CKA/Paint Branch Invitational tournament, 63-57, on Friday.
“I had no doubt. I believe in my team and my team believes in each other,” Coleman said. “We got back to playing our type of game and things swung our way.”
Tuscarora's Shania Johnson (22 points) dictated the pace of play early on. The 5-foot-2 guard was the fastest player on the court. Her ability to finish around the hoop and a consistent outside shot led to 13 first-half points and she added five more in the third quarter.
“We tried to deny her the ball because she was the one starting the offense,” freshman Autumn Ashe said. “In the first half, we were trying to lay back on them when we knew they were pushing the ball. So in the second half we came out with a different mindset and pushed up on the ball.”
The Panthers (6-2) took her out of the game in the fourth quarter. Leila Nicholas and Zahara Sani didn't let Johnson get more than a step away, forcing Tuscarora's other players to make plays. The result: six fourth-quarter turnovers and two points for Johnson in the final six minutes. The Titans were held to six points in the fourth quarter, including four in the final six minutes.
“The one thing I'm trying to teach the girls is that Taylor Johnson, Lyric Forney and Virginia Roby, just letting them know that they can handle the ball,” Tuscarora coach Robbie Turner said. “It's a steady progression but they're getting better. In the past they're so accustomed to giving the ball to Shania and I think it'll make us more versatile if other girls can handle the ball and take on that pressure as well.”
Ashe kept Paint Branch in the game during a stretch in the fourth quarter. She scored 10 straight points, helping them maintain an eight-point deficit.
Kiara Colston, the tournament most valuable player, took over down the stretch.
After a steal by Ashe with just more than three minutes left in the game, Colston received the ball at midcourt and drove to the basket to take a 56-55 lead, the Panthers first lead since leading 17-16 early in the second quarter. The Titans responded with a quick layup, but Colston went in for another layup to get the lead back for good. She scored 14 of her game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter.
“We're very confident now,” Colston said. “Now we just want to take on Gaithersburg and get that win. But we have to focus on Sherwood, that's our next game and we're going to get that dub.”
Paint Branch 63, Tuscarora 57
Tuscarora 14 19 18 6 — 57
Paint Branch 11 14 18 20 — 63
Tuscarora — Shania Johnson 22, Taylor Johnson 19, Katherine Moore 6, Kaylynn Evans 4, Jayel Duvall 4, Caitlin Cavin 2
Paint Branch — Kiara Colston 25, Daisa Harris 19, Autumn Ashe 13, Jasmine White 4, Erin French 2