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With Lake Park continuing to search for its first win of the season, the Upstate Eight Valley game in Aurora on Friday looked to be a mismatch on paper.
As any coach will attest, games aren’t played on paper, and East Aurora survived with a fourth-quarter surge to defeat the Lancers 58-49.
The Lady Cats (4-4, 9-9) looked quick early as Tyshee Towner (game high 29 points), Brandi McAlister (12 points), and Daisy Sanchez drove for easy scores, one coming an assist by Jubilee Fleming.
But East did not defend well against Nicole Tsiodras (eight points), who continued to knock down jump shots in the first half. Tyshai Freeman and Maria Zepeda scored from the baseline, and Tsiodras dropped in another long two-pointer to give Lake Park a 21-19 lead late in the second quarter.
“It was hot in the gym and my asthma was acting up. It was up and down, up and down,” said Towner of the tight game going toward the intermission. “I hit the asthma pump in the second half and I was back in it.”
After trailing 22-21 at the half, Towner continued to drive through the Lancers defense, and spent much of the time at the charity stripe. She cashed in by making 4 of 6 in the quarter, and 12 of 16 for the night.
But Towner and Desiree Rhodes (12 points), each with two baskets, could only keep East even. The Lancers’ Sam Cummings (team-high nine points) scored on a putback, Kelly Adams (eight points) hit two jump shots, and Brianna Erri made a long trey to send the contest to the fourth tied at 37.
The Lady Cats finally got the spurt they needed by scoring 10 straight points, most coming on turnovers, in a one-and-a-half minute blitz as the fourth quarter began. Towner made a three pointer and a difficult drive, and McAlister twisted her way for three consecutive scores and a 49-39 advantage. Lake Park committed nine turnovers in the period and could not recover.
“There was constant ball movement after we picked it up — it was quick and fast,” said McAlister. “It was running the court after turnovers. It was sloppy defense at first, but we picked it up second half.”
McAlister nailed a three, and the Cats made 6 of 9 free throws to keep Lake Park at bay down the stretch.
“Lake Park burned us on the back side of our press, and did a good job of getting to the bucket and knocking down some shots,” said East coach William Anderson. “Our seniors took the initiative and said, ‘We’re not going to lose this game.’ They started making some plays, and put us in position to gradually start grinding it out.”