FAIRFIELD — The three-time defending Monticello Empire League champions refused to go quietly.
The visiting crosstown rivals refused to go home without a win – despite blowing a 14-point second-quarter lead.
Janessa Boling hit two free throws with 1 minute, 27 seconds left to put the Rodriguez High girls basketball team ahead 38-37 and that’s how it ended as the Mustangs survived a furious final minute to top Armijo at E. Gary Vaughn Gymnasium, Thursday.
Rodriguez coach Lou Collier said the difference in the end was “defense,” and he clearly wasn’t pleased with how his squad played but chose to praise the Indians.
“They played a good game,” Collier said. “I’m not going to take anything away from Armijo. They played a real good game, they played hard.”
Especially from the middle of the second quarter on.
Boling, who led all scorers with 14 points, drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put the Mustangs (12-9, 4-1 MEL) up 16-4 and two baskets by Daraja Carroll made it 20-6 with 4:36 to go in the half.
Then the Indians (8-13, 2-3 MEL) came to life.
Passion Ware’s putback ignited a 13-0 run over the final four minutes that saw the home team pull to within 20-19 on Kira Wilson’s banked-in 3-pointer with 33 seconds to go.
Briana Hayles stopped the bleeding with an acrobatic spinning layup with 3 seconds left that made it 22-19 at the half.
The Mustangs missed 11 of the last 12 shots in the quarter while the Indians hit six of their last seven.
“We stopped putting the ball in the basket, we stopped running our offense,” Collier said of his team’s struggles. “We stopped running our game.”
Indians coach Lawrence Trigg credited offensive rebounds – and the excitement they caused – for his team’s turnaround.
“I don’t know how that is, I don’t get it, but it gets the energy going,” Trigg said. “We just needed to make a couple buckets. When we started making buckets, we got excited, it excited the team.”
Ninety seconds into the second half, Armijo’s Jada Williams was fouled attempting a 3-pointer and hit all three free throws to tie the game at 22.
Rodriguez regained the lead on a Boling free throw and held a 28-26 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
The Indians took their first lead at 31-29 on a Destiny Blueford 3-pointer with 5:23 left in the game.
There were three ties and two lead changes before Aniyah Ruffin’s 3-foot jumper put the Indians up 37-36 with 1:46 to go.
Boling hit the eventual game-winning free throws 23 seconds later, but the game wasn’t won until Rodriguez’s defense had a say.
The Mustangs forced three turnovers in the final minute or so but had to sweat out a Ruffin jumper that just missed with 1 second remaining.
Carroll was next for Rodriguez with eight points, while Hayles had six. Ruffin led the Indians with 10 points, while Ware had seven to go with 12 rebounds.
In JV action, Armijo (8-10, 3-2 MEL) broke away from a 42-42 tie by ending the game on a 16-5 run to win 58-47. The Indians were led by Sierra Chapman with 21, while Audrey Parker had 15, Danee Lockhart and Nathalie Nuñez eight, and Brianna Arrazola seven.
Caitlin Parish had 20 to lead the Mustangs (10-10, 1-4 MEL), while Tajmonet McIntyre added 15.
Rodriguez hosts Napa on Tuesday, while Armijo entertains Vacaville.
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.