SILVER SPRING TWP. — Bill Wolf is waiting for his team to “turn the corner.”
The Cumberland Valley coach has been waiting for much of this season. But a young Cumberland Valley, with two freshmen and two sophomores in the starting lineup, was not ready to do so Friday night, blowing a 10-point halftime lead to fall 40-39 against visiting CD East.
Auni Green knocked down a pair of free throws with 9.8 seconds left in front of a loud road crowd at Cumberland Valley’s Eagle Dome to cap the Panthers’ comeback victory, and the Eagles failed to execute on offense to get a clear shot off before the buzzer.
FINAL SCORE: @easthighsports wins a big road game in comeback fashion 40-39.— Jake Adams (@jakeadams520) January 20, 2018
Green makes both FTs and @CVSDeagles can't collect itself for a clean final shot. Here's the last sequence. pic.twitter.com/AHq3MHXvz5
East hadn’t led since the first quarter when it claimed a 7-5 advantage around four minutes in. But Green, who finished with 11 points, and Tiara Little (16) scored 14 combined points in the final quarter to erase CV’s last hopes and a 33-25 halftime hole.
“It was very nerve-wracking,” Green said. “I had to take a second to breathe, but I knocked them down in a clutch moment. So I’m proud of myself for that.”
The Panthers’ comeback was buoyed by Eagles turnovers, including a few five-second calls and several errant passes. CV (5-8, 4-5 Commonwealth) had committed just six turnovers in the first half, but turned the ball over nine times after the intermission, including five by Allison Hinish.
“It was the defense,” Green said of the comeback. “Getting the five-second calls was really big for us.”
“We did tell ‘em, yeah, expect them to make a run,” Wolf said when asked if he warned his team during halftime to expect a run. “We knew that they were gonna come out in the third quarter kind of with a vengeance.”
The collapse was in sharp contrast to what was largely an excellent first half for the Eagles.
CV took a minute to find its footing, falling behind 7-2 early. But all five starters recorded a bucket of the final six minutes of the opening quarter to spark a massive run that would bury most teams.
Wolf’s squad extended the spurt into the early minutes of the second quarter, taking a 19-7 lead before Green knocked down the backend of two free throws to stop a 17-0 CV stretch.
On defense, the Eagles interrupted passing lanes and clogged the middle. On offense, they moved the ball well, got out in transition and made open shots. CV shot a solid 10-of-22 in the first 16 minutes while holding the Panthers (8-5, 6-3) to 4-of-22 from the field.
Abbie Miller had eight of her 10 points in the opening half, all from inside 10 feet on put backs and a nice turnaround floater.
And Julie Jekot, who matched Miller with 10 points and seven rebounds by the night’s end, added six her own, showcasing a nice mid-range jumper.
“I just thought we played well defensively and just played good, solid basketball in the first half,” Wolf said.
CV held a 33-25 advantage at the break, but showed signs of cracking when East’s Little swiped a pass and took it the other way for an easy lay-up shortly before halftime.
And it was the Panthers who came out with increased intensity in the second half, but could only chip away incrementally. That was until a 5-0 run to start the fourth quarter that cut the Eagles’ lead to 35-30.
CV held firm on defense for the most part, but the closer CD East got, the more CV’s offense shrunk.
Hinish committed four turnovers in the third quarter alone, and East closed the gap with transition buckets and trips to the charity stripe.
The collapse was largely the result of a young team still learning how to finish. It is not the first time this season, and Wolf is waiting for his young charges to “pass the test.” When that will be is tough to predict.
“We’re proud of their effort, they’re a nice group to coach, but, you know, we just need to turn the corner,” Wolf said.
Little was credited with three steals and was disruptive on other defensive stands. Green approached a double-double for the Panthers, while Oliva Macedo finished with eight points and seven rebounds.
The Eagles got seven points from Hinish, but CV missed all four free throws in the final quarter, including the front ends of two one-and-ones in the final seconds that may have sealed the victory.