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BALANCED ATTACK LEADS COUGARS TO FINALS

The Academy Cougars overcame a rough start to fend off an early surge by the scrappy St. Paul Warriors, emerging with the hard fought 46-34 victory, securing their spot in the IIAAG girls high school basketball championship game against the ND Royals this Friday.

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By John Baza

The Academy Cougars overcame a rough start to fend off an early surge by the scrappy St. Paul Warriors, emerging with the hard fought 46-34 victory, securing their spot in the IIAAG Girls High School Basketball Championship game against the Notre Dame Royals this Friday.

It would be the Cougars seniors’ final time playing on their home court and they were determined to make it count Tuesday night against Pangilinan and the Warriors squad.

Led by Mia San Nicolas’ 12 points, 8 rebounds, 4 blocks and Kali ‘Special K’ Benavente’s 8 points and 7 assists, the Cougars fended off a dominant 18 point, 7 assist, 3 blocks performance from the Warriors’ Joy ‘Nova’ Pangilinan.

Academy wasted no time as Kiersten Pangelinan quickly found a cutting Meghan Cruz right off the tipoff for an early bucket, but the Warriors would quickly answer with a layup from Shelby Respicio.

Both teams would trade buckets throughout the quarter, but it was clear that both teams were struggling to find a rhythm. St. Paul’s Pangilinan capped off a rather dominant quarter with an exclamation point, blocking a last second shot attempt by the Cougars to trail at 8-6 at the end of the quarter.

The Warriors were in no rush on offense, playing up high and slowing down the tempo in an effort to force the Cougars out of their zone. The tactic seemed effective until Academy’s Rosita Duenas and Kali Benavente stepped up the defense, forcing turnovers and converting on the offensive end to claim a 13-6 lead.

“We had to pick up the pace of the game again and remember to go back to our game”, replied Academy’s Pangelinan on the sluggish start.

Joy Pangilinan was instrumental in the second quarter garnering blocks and hitting shots to battle back and keep her team in it (13-11) at the half.

The second half was a change of pace, as the Cougars picked up the slack getting early buckets from Cam Hattori and Mia San Nicolas, but Pangilinan once again put her team on the boards with a baseline drive (17-13).

Wendy's Players of the Game, the starting line of the Academy Cougars; Mia San Nicolas, Camarin Hattori, Kali Benavente, Kiersten Pangelinan, and Meaghan Cruz.  (photo by Daniel Paran)

Wendy’s Players of the Game, the starting line of the Academy Cougars; Mia San Nicolas, Camarin Hattori, Kali Benavente, Kiersten Pangelinan, and Meaghan Cruz. (photo by Daniel Paran)

The Warriors were able to find a cutting Haley Senne on the inbounds for a quick basket, but San Nicolas was able to spark a run for the Cougars along with teammate Cruz. The towering duo dominated the boards, getting second chance points and capping off a momentous quarter with a 10-0 run to take a commanding 29-15 lead heading into the fourth.

The Cougars struck early with Hattori connecting with Cruz on a nice pass (31-15) to open the final quarter. The Warriors knew they had to give it their all as Senne and Pangilinan combined for a five-point run, but a San Nicolas putback cut the momentum short (33-20).

With Benavente and Pangelinan orchestrating the offense with their passing ability and court vision, the Cougars continued to roll on and extend their lead. The Warriors were able to close the gap with time expiring, but came up short as the Cougars secured their championship ticket, winning 46-34.

“We just have to stay positive, focused and humble heading into this final game”, said Academy’s Benavente on the expectations for Friday’s game.

Other Game

ND 69, Southern 58

PHOTO GALLERY BROUGHT TO YOU BY:

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Shelby Respicio lines up her shot at the free throw line.  (photo by Daniel Paran)

Shelby Respicio lines up her shot at the free throw line. (photo by Daniel Paran)

Haley Senne puts the pressure on the Cougars' Kali Benavente.  (photo by Daniel Paran)

Haley Senne puts the pressure on the Cougars’ Kali Benavente. (photo by Daniel Paran)

Joylyn Pangilinan shoots a quick pass to an open teammate for a play.  (photo by Daniel Paran)

Joylyn Pangilinan shoots a quick pass to an open teammate for a play. (photo by Daniel Paran)

Meaghan Cruz comes up from behind to steal the rebound away from Shelby Respicio.  (photo by Daniel Paran)

Meaghan Cruz comes up from behind to steal the rebound away from Shelby Respicio. (photo by Daniel Paran)

Rosita Duenas sinks a three-pointer before the Warriors could get to her.  (photo by Daniel Paran)

Rosita Duenas sinks a three-pointer before the Warriors could get to her. (photo by Daniel Paran)

Kali Benavente puts up a short jumper from the inside for two.  (photo by Daniel Paran)

Kali Benavente puts up a short jumper from the inside for two. (photo by Daniel Paran)

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