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COUGARS DROP ROYALS IN QUARTERFINALS

The Academy Cougars finished off the girls basketball playoffs opening round with a win over the ND Royals and MVP Destiny Castro Saturday night at the Royals gym.

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By Robert Balajadia

The Academy Cougars basketball team traveled down south Saturday evening to face off against the league MVP Destiny “Queen B” Castro and the ND Royals. A lot of offense was expected, but the game turned out quite the opposite with the Cougars getting clutch free throws from Kali “Special K” Benavente to beat the Royals 45-41.

Benavente had missed the final three games for the Cougars after suffering a foot injury late in the season. “It felt decent,” said Benavente on her foot wrapped in ice after the contest.

Castro finished with a game high 22 points while Benavente finished with 21 to lead the Cougars. “I was expecting this game to be a close one, I’m glad we pulled away at the end. [Destiny] and I hate going up against each other, but we have to,” Benavente added on facing her friend and former teammate. The pair went to the championship game in their freshman year as teammates with the St. John’s Knights.

The game between the Cougars and Royals wrapped up the quarterfinals with Okkodo, Southern, and JFK moving on after their wins Friday night.

The Royals had just scored off free throws from Castro to get within 43-41 with under 27 seconds left in the game. Academy then turned the ball over after a miscue on the inbound which gave the Royals a chance to tie the game.

Royals’ Demie Brennan got free off the inbound play, but her shot was just a fraction off with Castro getting the offensive board. Castro was met by a host of Cougars on her shot attempt allowing Academy’s Jasie Villaneuva to secure the rebound where the Royals were forced to foul.

Brittany Meno powers through the Royals defense to make a shot attempt.  (photo by Kyle Twardowski)

Brittany Meno powers through the Royals defense to make a shot attempt. (photo by Kyle Twardowski)

Villanueva missed the freebie on a 1-and-1 situation, giving ND another chance at a score, but Castro lost the ball on the following possession giving Cougar Kiersten Pangelinan a chance to put the game out of reach with 11 seconds to go.

Pangelinan missed her shots from the charity stripe giving ND another game tying chance. Castro tried to push the ball, but she fell into a trap once she passed the half court line as Benavente and Pangelinan used a double team to take the ball away.

Benavente grabbed hold of the ball, sending her to the line after the immediate foul, hitting both free throws to ice the game 45-41.

When asked about her confidence during clutch situations, Benavente simply stated, “It really depends on the flow of the game and how I’m feeling during warm ups. If I’m really focused, then I’m confident.”

The Cougar offense had trouble getting out the gates, missing four layups in the opening period. The Royal offense committed a wealth of turnovers in the first quarter, despite getting six points from Castro. Through the first four minutes of the game, ND held just a 3-2 lead.

The biggest lead of the contest was gained by ND in the 2nd period leading 19-11 before the Cougars ended the half on a small run to keep the Royals close.

Destiny Castro makes a layup attempt coming off a break away.  (photo by Kyle Twardowski)

Destiny Castro makes a layup attempt coming off a break away. (photo by Kyle Twardowski)

Both teams traded the lead in the 3rd quarter with the period ending dead locked at 27 points to head into the 4th quarter.

Pangelinan provided clutch buckets in the final three minutes of the game, converting on two layups on assists from Benavente. Cougars Uriyah Tobiason then made a heads up play, stealing the ball at mid court while weaving through traffic to finish a layup and the foul to cap off a 6-0 Academy run to go up 39-33 with under three minutes to go.

ND would respond with a run of their own to get within a single score, 43-41, eventually leading to Benavente’s clutch free throws.

The Cougars will now face off against the top seeded Okkodo Bulldogs, the only team the Bulldogs have lost to in the regular season. Both teams have improved since that meeting, setting up an exciting semifinal showdown.

“We just have to stick to what we do best and play hard,” said Benavente.

Friday Night Scores

Okkodo 46, Harvest 24
Southern 52, St. Paul 43
JFK 49, Guam High 38

PHOTO GALLERY:

Demie Brannan (right) and  Uriyah Tobiason (left) battle to save the ball before going out of bounds.  (photo by Kyle Twardowski)

Demie Brannan (right) and Uriyah Tobiason (left) battle to save the ball before going out of bounds. (photo by Kyle Twardowski)

Taylor Paul of the Cougars gets trapped at the base line by Demie Brennan.  (photo by Kyle Twardowski)

Taylor Paul of the Cougars gets trapped at the base line by Demie Brennan. (photo by Kyle Twardowski)

Destiny Castro uses her speed and agility to get open and make a long jump shot.  (photo by Kyle Twardowski)

Destiny Castro uses her speed and agility to get open and make a long jump shot. (photo by Kyle Twardowski)

Destiny Castro shoots a long two over Brittany Meno in the first half.  (photo by Kyle Twardowski)

Destiny Castro shoots a long two over Brittany Meno in the first half. (photo by Kyle Twardowski)

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