by Brian Turrel
The Piper Lady Pirates came within seconds of defeating the top-ranked team in the 5A division after staging a furious fourth quarter comeback.
They fell just short when the St. Thomas Aquinas Saints collected a foul and two points for a 35-34 win on Friday night in Piper.
Previously undefeated Piper wasn’t in its usual rhythm. The Saints’ size, speed, and accurate passing put Piper off its usual pressing and backcourt trapping defense and took away its transition offense.
The Saints took advantage on the boards as well, dominated by Beatrice Culliton and Charlotte O’Keefe. Piper gradually fell behind, racking up an 8-point deficit and going into the half down 29-21.
The third quarter was a defensive grind, with both teams struggling to score for minutes on end. Ayreona Carter scored all 7 of Piper’s points in the quarter to keep pace with the Saints.
In the fourth quarter, junior guard Evelyn Vazquez took control of the game. Her fast-paced defense shifted up to frenetic, and she started to drive the ball into the teeth of the Aquinas defense, earning baskets and trips to the line.
Vazquez scored 11 of Piper’s 13 points in the final quarter, and she put the Lady Pirates into the lead at 34-33 with 28 seconds remaining. The Piper defense nearly held out, forcing the Saints to inbound the ball four times and running down the clock.
With 2.8 seconds remaining, the Saints got the foul call they needed and converted both free throws. Piper’s last mad dash down the court ended with a shot off the rim.
The loss drops the Lady Pirates to 6-1, but they get no break. They play again on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. against the second-ranked team in the 5A division, McPherson High School. The Lady Bullpups are undefeated and coming off a Friday night victory over Dodge City.