Thursday, March 12, 2015

4A State Semifinal: Monacan 58, William Fleming 57

It will forever be remembered in Monacan lore as "The Block".

When Megan Walker missed the front end of an one-and-one, the third such miss in a row by the team in the final 36 seconds of the 4A Girls State Semifinal at the Siegel Center, she realized she had to race downcourt and quickly.

"I didn't know I was going to block the shot, but I knew I couldn't let her get a wide open layup," Walker explained.

Her emphatic swat of Qwonneshia King's shot attempt to win the game came just before the buzzer sounded. The ball floated out of bounds as it did, and Monacan survived with a 58-57 victory over William Fleming to advance to Saturday's 4A State Championship against familiar foe, and fellow Conference 20 member Midlothian. It will be their fifth meeting this season, the teams having split the first four.

"We knew we had our hands full," said Monacan head coach Larry Starr. "They're a big team, a well-coached team. I think our team played with intensity and heart the whole time. I don't think there was a minute that we weren't busting our butts out there."

Intensity and effort led to opportunity and offense early, as Alex Parson led the way in the first half scoring all 14 of her points in the first sixteen minutes. But the Chiefs went cold late in the half, scoring just nine points in the last six minutes of the half after pouring in 28 in the first ten. Still, the lead was 13 at 37-24 and there was no sign of what was to come from the Colonels, who finish the season at 24-5, their 17-game winning streak ended at the Siegel Center.

Post presence Desiree Keeling was William Fleming's target out of the locker room, sending her lower in the paint, and, with her size, causing issues for the much smaller Chiefs. Deja Booker added her only four points of the game in the third quarter. Add to all that Megan Walker starting slow from the field, and suddenly the Colonels caught fire, all but erasing the 13-point halftime lead. A 15-2 William Fleming run was finally ended on a Walker layup for the final score of the third quarter. Suddenly, it was 45-41.

Monacan righted the ship, and calmly began rebuilding the lead, and when Jasmine Norman hit an open jumper with 1:28 to play, the lead was back to ten. But a senior-laden team such as the Colonels was not ready to roll over.

King hit a three-pointer with 1:10 left, then Dasmine Kasey nailed a trey at 26 seconds left. The lead was down to four. William Fleming had fouled Monacan four times in eight seconds just to get the Chiefs into the bonus.

Each time Jasmine Norman failed to hit the front end of the bonus, Kasey responded with a three-pointer. Her second cut the lead to one, 58-57 with :06 on the clock. The Chiefs spent the timeout taken by William Fleming to make sure Walker got the inbounds pass.

She did. But Walker, too, missed the front end of the one-and-one, setting up the frantic finish. She atoned for the miss in the most memorable of ways, swatting away the shot that could have ended Monacan's season.

Walker finished with 19 points and nine rebounds to go with Parson's 14 and 12 points for Jaiden Morris. While the Chiefs were outrebounded 50-35, they forced 20 William Fleming turnovers, and turned them into 20 points.

Now the Chiefs turn their attention to old foe Midlothian. Monacan won 75-62 December 6th in the Conference 20 Tip-Off Tournament Championship, then defeated the Trojans by seventeen in January. Midlothian returned the favor at home February 12th, winning by seventeen, 66-49. On Monday, the Trojans finally got a win on the Chiefs' home floor in the 4A South Region Final, 62-57.

Saturday at 11:45AM, it will be Chiefs and Trojans one more time. And the Chiefs, to a player, say they will be ready.

NOTES: Tickets are $10 for Saturday's championship game. Siegel Center doors open at 9am, as the 4A Boys Final will tip at 10AM. The Chiefs are 23-4, while the Trojans will come in at 23-5.

LIVE Twitter coverage of the game can be found on @cfieldsports Saturday beginning at 11:30am.

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