MANVEL

A sloppy game had an exciting finish, but the Clear Creek Wildcats were unable to come away with a win against Alief Elsik, falling to the Lady Rams, 35-34, on Tuesday night at Manvel High School.

“I’m really proud of them for making the playoffs,” Clear Creek head coach Kristi Odom said. “We had a couple of teams sitting at home that could’ve been in our spot.”

Neither side could gain much momentum for the vast majority of the game, as the two teams combined for 57 turnovers (Elsik 31, Clear Creek 26). But, with a shade under 2 minutes to play and Elsik leading, 33-32, things began to get interesting.

A potential lead-changing 3-point shot by sophomore guard Kyndal Johnson (13 points) rattled in and out, and with just less than a minute remaining, Elsik’s post Erinescia Ford (nine points, 12 rebounds, four blocks) went to the free throw line for a chance to give the Lady Rams a three-point lead.

Ford missed both from the charity stripe, but forward Jordan Sanders (seven points, 11 rebounds) secured the offensive rebound and a timeout was called.

On the inbounds pass, Johnson stole the ball near midcourt and raced downcourt for an layup to give Clear Creek a 34-33 lead with 49 seconds remaining. It was the Wildcats’ first lead since the middle of the second quarter.

But, just as quickly as Clear Creek grabbed the lead, Elsik grabbed it back with a fast break and a dish to Ford for a layup. Shortly thereafter, the imposing Ford fouled out, and the Wildcats attempted to take advantage on their last possession.

After a tenacious Elsik defense swatted two inbounds passes back out of bounds, Clear Creek got the ball in, and swung it over to Johnson, who drove the lane and made the basket — but the basket was waived off as she committed an offensive foul on the way to the hoop.

“They kept deflecting it and getting their hands in there, and they just hustled,” Odom said. “They gave a great effort. They were tough to get off you. They were strong on defense, and they didn’t give you an inch.”

The Wildcats got off to a strong start, building a 7-1 lead early with a pair of 3-pointers from sophomore guards Ana Rodriguez and Sam Simmons fueling the run.

After that, though, Clear Creek hit a dry spell, as Elsik scored eight unanswered points and held the Wildcats scoreless for 6:46, from the 4:02 mark of the first quarter to the 5:16 mark of the second.

A pair of free throws and a long 2-pointer knocked down by Johnson saw Clear Creek regain the lead, but Elsik bounced back with a 6-0 run led by four points from guard Sandra Chuks (12 points).

Guard Delores Okeke’s (seven points, four rebounds) 2-pointer in the paint gave the Lady Rams a 17-14 lead heading into the halftime break.

Elsik built its largest lead of the game at 25-19 in the third quarter, but the Wildcats finished the period on a 6-0 run for a 25-25 tie headed into the fourth quarter.

A 3-pointer from junior guard DeAzhia Smith (12 points, all in the second half) tied the game 30-30, and a Smith 2-pointer tied the game, 32-32, at the 2:06 mark of the fourth quarter to set the stage for the thrilling finish.

Elsik had a significant advantage in free throw chances, going 14-for-34 at the line, compared to Clear Creek’s 8 of 14 shooting.

The Wildcats should have a sound foundation on which to build for next year, as the roster graduates no seniors.

“I’m hoping they’ll learn from this experience and come back hungry next year and ready for more,” Odom said.

James LaCombe: 409-683-5242, james.lacombe@galvnews.com or on Twitter @JamesAtGalvNews

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