Girls Basketball: Brooks defeats Morgan Park in Public League semifinal
By Tony Baranek email@example.com February 6, 2014 9:20PM
Brooks' Amara Graham (1) drives to the basket against Morgan Park in Chicago Thursday, February, 6, 2014. | Jim Boyce/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 8, 2014 6:33AM
Brooks twice had lost to Morgan Park during the regular season, by 18 and 16 points.
The Eagles were trailing by 11 early in the second quarter of Thursday’s Public League semifinal at Chicago State.
Same old, same old?
Not this time.
Akina Wellere wouldn’t let it happen. Neither would Amara Graham.
Brooks not only came back, but dominated at times. And with their star player on the bench for the final 2:42, the Eagles held off a Morgan Park rally to prevail 81-78.
Wellere finished with 37 points and nine rebounds, while Graham added 28 points for Brooks (17-4), which will make its first appearance in the city final Friday night against Young.
Morgan Park (18-4), which is missing the final for the first time in four seasons, was led by Tammy Russell (24 points) and Cachet Johnson (22).
Making Wellere’s performance more remarkable is that she did it by starting the second half with four fouls and never coming off the floor.
She committed her fourth on a charge with 1.1 seconds remaining until intermission. To that point she had 18 points, all on inside shots and free throws, as Brooks rallied from a 26-15 deficit to take a 37-35 advantage into intermission.
Brooks coach Reggie Dawson playing the faith card, put Wellere back on the floor at the start of the third period.
“I had to be smart because they were calling fouls on me driving, so I had to shoot the ball more,” Wellere said. “I was thinking, ‘I’ve got to find a way to make it with four fouls.’ ”
She found it at the three-point arc. The 5-foot-11 guard struck for four treys in the third period, while Graham added another plus three more baskets. Brooks led by as much as 58-45, and went into the final eight minutes ahead 63-55.
Wellere did drive once in the fourth period and converted a three-point as a result. Graham, meanwhile, hit for another three-point play and six free throws in all as Brooks turned the two earlier losses into a distant memory.
“We just had to come out and shoot,” Graham said. “We’re shooters. They can’t stick us on the outside. We had it (Thursday).”
Wellere fouled out with 2:42 remaining with Brooks leading 77-69. Morgan Park made a furious comeback, getting as close as 78-76 and 80-78, the latter with 54.6 seconds left after a jumper by Ashley Coleman.
Their final trip down the floor with a chance to tie saw the Mustangs miss two three-point tries. But the game, judged Morgan Park coach Kedonica Taylor, was lost earlier than that.
“The problem was that we turned the ball over too many times and we missed free throws,” she said. “But I was impressed that we still had fight in us and still had a chance to win even with all the mistakes. We just have to grow and pick up.”