ALAMEDA — Hollywood would’ve rejected the script.
Too melodramatic, too unbelievable.
Besides, who does a movie about a sprained ankle?
Kiana Moore returned to action after missing two games and scored 15 points, including three fourth-quarter 3-pointers, to lift the Vanden High girls basketball team to a 58-54 win over Encinal in the Northern California Regional Division III quarterfinals, Saturday.
The Vikings (25-6) advance to play at Sac-Joaquin Section champion Modesto Christian in the semifinals, Tuesday.
It was the first win in the NorCal quarterfinals for Vanden, which lost in that round three of the past four years.
Yet the Vikings made it tough on themselves, building a 7-0 lead barely a minute into the game before needing late-game heroics from Moore and others.
Vanden found itself down 45-40 after two free throws by Encinal’s Destiny Kelly 54 seconds into the fourth quarter.
The first of Moore’s 3-pointers, a rainbow from the left corner, cut the deficit to 45-44 with 5:25 to go in the game.
The second, from the right side and set up when Julia Blackshell-Fair fought for and got an offensive rebound, put the Vikings up to stay at 52-51.
It was followed by the third, from the left corner, to make it 55-51 with 57 seconds remaining.
“I was thinking, we needed these 3’s,” said Moore, who appeared to re-injure the ankle several times during the game but kept coming back. “I knew what I had to do and I got it done.”
Vanden coach Allison Johnson simply called Moore’s contributions “huge.”
“She gives us great energy, defensively, offensively,” the coach said. “She gives us little bursts of energy. The girls feed off that.”
Blackshell-Fair then hit one of two free throws to give Vanden its biggest lead since the opening minutes at 56-51.
The Jets refused to crash, however. Caprice Taylor drained a 3-pointer from the left side to make it 56-54 with 30.5 seconds to go.
Blackshell-Fair again sank one of two free throws and Encinal missed two more shots before Chantell Greer hit one of two foul shots – Vanden hurt itself by shooting 51.6 percent (16 of 31) from the line, including 5 of 15 in the fourth quarter – to ice the victory at 58-54 with 1.9 seconds remaining.
The Vikings, who roughed up the Jets 69-43 in the first round of the NorCals last year, appeared ready to do the same from the opening tip on Saturday.
They led 6-0 before Encinal got off a shot and 7-0 just 61 seconds into the game.
Vanden then went nearly seven minutes without scoring, allowing the Jets to go on a 10-0 run. Azanaé Lewis stopped the bleeding with a runner in the lane.
“It was us, all us,” Johnson said of her team’s struggles. “We were handcuffing ourselves, like someone driving a stick shift for the first time, nothing fluid, all herky-jerky.”
The second quarter, which began with Vanden down 10-9, saw four ties and four lead changes before the home team took a 24-23 lead into halftime.
The third period was just as crazy with five lead changes and six ties before ending up at 40-40 heading into the final eight minutes.
But something crucial happened in the third quarter: Vanden finally found the range from long distance.
After the Vikings had gone 0-for-the-game on 3-pointers, Alex Bader finally sank a trey to put her team up 34-31, though that was answered 10 seconds later by a bomb from Encinal’s Kelly.
Brianne Taylor nailed a 3-pointer from the left side 43 seconds into the fourth quarter and Kelly sank two free throws 11 seconds later to put the Jets up 45-40.
The comeback started when Moore, playing with four fouls, tied up Kelly as she was going up for a layup, drawing a held-ball call and giving the ball back to the Vikings.
From that point Vanden, which by far had the most and loudest fans in attendance, outscored the home team 17-9 to pull out the victory.
Kayla Blair was the only Viking to score a basket in each quarter and finished with a team-high 16 points.
“The girls do believe in the themselves,” Johnson said, “because we played such a monster (preseason) tournament schedule. . . . We’ve been down to powerhouse teams. The girls don’t lose focus when they’re down.”
Or when they have to shake off a sprained ankle – Hollywood-style.
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.