Gar-Field girls basketball coach Larry Baker says big players make big plays, and that's what Kia Manuel, Nikki Wells and Vanessa Massie did last night as the No. 14 Indians dumped rival Woodbridge, 56-45, to remain unbeaten in the Cardinal District.
Massie made a pair three-point shots in the third quarter, Manuel (game-high 16 points) converted a conventional three-point play to stretch a fourth-quarter lead, and Wells's steal with 2 minutes 24 seconds to play extinguished any hopes of a Vikings upset.
"We always tell the girls that big players step up and make big plays, and that's what we did tonight," Baker said after watching his team erase a 14-point first-quarter deficit.
Woodbridge played the game without head coach George Washington and assistant coach Mike Wilson, who missed the game because of an "internal school issue," Woodbridge Activities Director Wes Bergazzi said.
Bergazzi said in addition to last night's game, the two coaches would miss next Friday's home game against Osbourn. Gloria Watkins, coach of the Vikings' freshman girls team, is serving as acting head coach. Washington declined to comment.
Despite the upheaval, Woodbridge played its most inspired basketball of the season to start the game. The Vikings (7-7, 4-1) made seven of 11 first-quarter shots, forced three turnovers and led 16-2 when Elizabeth Mumley stole the ball and drove the length of the court for a layup with 1:33 left in the first quarter.
Unfortunately, the frenetic first-quarter pace seemed to sap Woodbridge of its energy late in the game. The Vikings also were playing without leading scorer Kanee Booth, who sprained an ankle the previous Friday.
"They just wore us out," said Greg Margheim, who helped Watkins direct the team last night. "With or without Coach Washington, with or without Kanee, Gar-Field deserved to win."
Margheim, who was a Vikings assistant from 1996 to last season, came to school yesterday and was asked by Bergazzi to help Watkins with the coaching duties.
"I know the girls because I was an assistant, but I don't know any of the plays," Margheim said. "Basically we just stood on the sidelines and yelled. The girls could have turned this into a negative or a positive and with the way they came out, I think they did an outstanding job. We just didn't have anyone at the end who had any breath."
That's a credit to Gar-Field's smothering pressure defense. The Indians forced 24 turnovers and took control during the third quarter with Massie's three-point shots and pair of putbacks from Wells.
Despite only making five of 14 shots, Wells grabbed 13 rebounds, handed out four assists and made five steals.
"We told the girls to go out and play Gar-Field basketball," Baker said of what he told his team at halftime. "And that means defense and transition."
Kelly Brown also made a pair of second-half three-pointers to give the Indians (11-2, 5-0) a boost.
"We told them that the [three-point] shot was there," Baker said. "And we have the players to make that shot. We were trying to force it into Kia and Nikki too much in the first half, but that's maybe because any time you play your rival you come out a little more nervous and tighter."
The Indians, who made 5 of 14 free throws in the first half, made 7 of 8 in the final 1:13 to ensure victory.
Sophomores Liana Wooten and Kristen Portell each scored 12 to pace the Vikings.
VIKINGS BOYS LEAD DISTRICT
Woodbridge's 13th-ranked boys team improved to 5-0 in the Cardinal District with a 51-42 win over visiting Gar-Field last night.
CAPTION: Katherine Clark, right, tries to keep the ball from the Indians' Nikki Wells, whose steal with 2 minutes 24 seconds left doused the Vikings' upset bid. Wells made just 5 of 14 shots, but had 13 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 steals.
CAPTION: Katherine Clark, left, and Vikings teammate Katie Sutton try to steal a rebound from Kia Manuel, whose 16 points helped the Indians improve to 11-2, 5-0.