Girls basketball: Lee leads Capital into section final
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As the seconds ticked away Wednesday night at the end of the Capital High girls basketball team's Class AAA Region 3, Section 1 semifinals, Cougars senior Kadijah Lee feared the worst.
The young Black Eagles had scored eight straight points to regain a one-point lead with less than a minute to go.
Yet with time running out on Capital's season, redemption came in the form of an open lane.
Lee's driving layup with 7 seconds on the clock gave the Cougars a 49-48 win and a 7 p.m. Friday date with George Washington in the section finals.
"Our coaches kept our heads up in the locker room and on the bench," said Lee, who scored a team-high 18 points. "In the fourth quarter with 29 seconds on the clock and we were down, my head was down, I thought we were going to lose.
"But our coaches said to keep our heads up because anything can happen, and we won the game."
The Cougars (9-12) fought like crazy to regain possession in the final minute. With fouls to give, Capital finally fouled enough to put sophomore Lina Villanueva on the line with 19.5 seconds left.
It was Villanueva's layup with 1:16 left that gave the Black Eagles (11-12) a 48-47 lead, but she missed the front end of a one-and-one. South Charleston grabbed the offensive rebound but another missed shot ended up in the hands of Capital's India Hairston.
Capital Coach B.J. Calabrese called a time out with 12 seconds left to set up a final play, and he wasn't going to accept a long jumper.
"We kind of set up a play where we tried to isolate down on the block," he said. "This side cleared out and we said let's attack the basket. Let's not accept an outside shot and force something up from the outside."
Lee's game-winner erased what was a furious comeback by South Charleston. The Black Eagles opened the game strong, leading by as many as eight points in the first half and forcing 20 Capital turnovers in that span. Villanueva, a sophomore, led the way with 13 first-half points.
But the Cougars were able to pull into a 24-24 tie at halftime and lead by as many as 10 in the third quarter, thanks to 11 points in that span from Lee.
The senior guard made Capital's first basket of the game, which didn't come until 3:57 remained in the first quarter, but was quiet on the scoring front through halftime. That changed in the third, when she buried four second-half 3-pointers, including three in the third.
"Kadijah leads by example," Calabrese said. "She plays really hard. She's really our third-leading rebounder. She's our shooting guard and she'll take over the point. She'll play a little bit of anywhere and everywhere for us."
South Charleston rallied, but a couple of breakdowns on that final play ended its season.
"There was no help-side," Black Eagles Coach John Testa said. "We told the girls in the huddle that, if someone was driving, we all had to help. Everybody had to step over. It's been that way all year, one or two missed assignments, but it's a young team."
Villanueva led South Charleston with 18 points, while Alexia Wade added eight and Ary Mosley scored seven. Tatityana Wood scored 11 points for Capital and Brianna Harris added nine.
The Black Eagles head into the offseason with a bright outlook on its future. The team is stacked with freshmen and sophomores and only three seniors will graduate from the squad. But it couldn't overcome a Capital team with eight seniors who weren't ready to see their season end.
"I just told the team to keep up the good work, because we wanted to see GW (this Friday)," Lee said, "and we pulled it together."