By the time she’d picked up her third foul just a minute into the second quarter, the Panthers led the Spartans and Felder was leading all scorers with some impressive pull-up jumpers and flashy assists.
But Coach Tiffany Jenkins needed to save her star sophomore from fouling out, and so Felder sat as Broad Run inched closer. With 3 minutes 53 seconds left in the third quarter, the Spartans (17-9) were within one, and Jenkins couldn’t wait. In went Felder, and up went the Panthers’ lead, which grew to double digits by quarter’s end and propelled Potomac to a 53-46 victory.
“It was something I could’ve controlled,” Felder said of the three fouls. “If I could’ve kept it together, we wouldn’t have been in a situation where they could come back. When I came back in, coach told me if I don’t shoot, we weren’t going to win. So I felt as if I had to try to take over.”
It took Felder seconds to shoot and spark Potomac (13-7). In her first possession off the bench, she crossed over, pulled up and hit a deep jumper. She’d score or assist on nine of the Panthers’ next 13 points in a 13-3 run that followed, and finished with 17 to lead Potomac.
“Initially I was going to wait [into the fourth quarter], but they started getting a little too close for me,” Jenkins said of the decision to put Felder back in. “But she was ready to go in about a minute after she came out.”
While Felder could only pace back and forth to the water cooler or hold her head in her hands during the middle of the game, Chikamso Chukwu stabilized the Panthers with consistent inside finishes. She ended up with 16 for Potomac, which heads to the 5A North semifinal Thursday.
The Panthers (25-0) opened up a double-digit lead by the end of the first quarter and never looked back, drawing out offensive possessions with patient ball movement and avoiding lengthy defensive stands with quick steals or defensive rebounds.
“We had good ball movement and got ourselves good shots,” Potomac Coach Keith Honore said. “Usually if you get yourself good shots, you’ve got a good chance of making them.”
Several of those shots came inches away from the hoop, and Randy Haynes and Trey Porter combined for a half-dozen dunks between them. Haynes finished with 28 points to lead all scorers, while Porter chipped in 18. But coach and players agreed Tuesday’s win, like the 24 before it, are borne of consistent defensive commitment.
“Our goal is to hold every team under 40 every night,” Porter said. “If we’re all on the same page, we’re pretty confident we can do that every game.”