Finally a sweet 16: Windsor girls basketball team gets past round of 16 with resilient win against Classical Academy | MyWindsorNow.com

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Finally a sweet 16: Windsor girls basketball team gets past round of 16 with resilient win against Classical Academy

As Michaela Moran dished an assist into the paint and Ally Kennis sank a fastbreak layup with 31 seconds left Tuesday, it wasn't just a perfect pass Moran was letting go of.

She and her Windsor teammates let go of years of frustration from frequent Class 4A playoff exits in the round of 16. They let go of that little voice in their heads that questioned whether their program is good enough to hang within the classification's top tier. They let go of any doubt they or anyone else might have had of whether a team that lacks a superstar but has plenty of reliable options can go beyond being "just good enough" and prove to be as good as anybody, better than most.

But, it was what they were grabbing onto that meant so much more than what they were letting go of: A long-sought-after trip to the final three rounds of the 4A Girls Basketball Championships, a berth in the state tournament's round of 8.

After using their defense to survive a rough-and-tumble first half, Moran, Kennis and their Wizards teammates found their rhythm and cohesion on offense in the second half.

They surged to a 49-43 win in the state tournament's third round against 21st-seeded The Classical Academy in front of a packed house at Reg Figal Gymnasium.

"Oh man, it's the best feeling in the world," said Kennis, a sophomore, who scored nine points and grabbed nine critical rebounds to ignite Windsor's second half run.

"We played as a team, and we've been practicing all season for this. We've been waiting all year to do this. This is what we've been working toward."

The fifth-seeded Wizards (19-6) will play host Friday to upset-minded 13th-seed Rifle (22-3) in what Windsor coach Jim Porth and school officials believe to be the Wizards' first trip to the round of 8 in a dozen or more years.

Through the first two quarters, Windsor appeared to be in danger of seeing its season end at the same point it concluded four of the past five years, with the only exception being in 2014, when its season ended one round earlier.

The Wizards trailed 22-18 at halftime, confounded by the suffocating defense of a Titans squad that entered with a 12-game win streak and far more game than its lower seed might indicate.

In the second half, Windsor maintained its own grit on defense while solving its earlier offensive woes, outscoring TCA 31-21 in the final two quarters, including 18-9 during the game-changing third quarter.

Moran, a junior, scored eight of her game-high 13 points after halftime. She said the entire team came out of the locker rooms at halftime re-energized, determined to keep this from being another Windsor postseason run that ends in that dreaded round of 16.

"It's honestly a dream come through," Moran said of the landmark win. "Ever since I came here as a freshman, that's been the goal. We had never gotten past (the round of 16), in I think, at least 20 years. So, it's awesome."

After trailing almost all of the first half, Windsor took its first lead since the opening three minutes when sophomore guard Hollie Hoffman grabbed a rebound then went coast to coast for a layup to put her team up 28-27 with 4:19 left in the third.

The Wizards extended their lead to 39-29 with 1:44 left in the third after Kennis grabbed an offensive rebound under the basket, shook a defender, then sank a hook shot to cap a 9-2 run.

But, much like how Windsor didn't fold in the first half, TCA refused to go away in the second.

Titans junior RaeAnn Queener drove from the top of the key, drew a Madi Denzel foul and sank one of two free throws to put TCA up 41-40 with 2:09 left.

Moran's floater 27 seconds later gave the Wizards the lead again, and Hoffman and Kennis had a pair of key baskets in the final 64 seconds to finally shake Windsor's third-round woes.

"We made some mistakes, but when we had to play with poise, when we had to play with patience, when we had to do things right, (the girls) came through," Porth said. "We're a young team, but everybody on this team contributed. … We had to 'will' it a little bit there at the end."

Best individual Performance

Even though Moran did what she has done all season — leading a supremely balanced Wizards team in scoring — Kennis deserves the nod for being the spark Windsor needed in the second half.

In short, the athletic 5-foot-10 forward was all over the place, battling for boards, playing tough interior defense and slicing to the hoop for key baskets.

Turning point

After Classical Academy had largely controlled the second half, a dominant third quarter gave Windsor the cushion it needed to narrowly fend off the Titans in the fourth.

Up Next

The Wizards will try to improve to 3-0 at home in the playoffs when they play host Friday to a Rifle team fresh off a 42-35 upset win in overtime Tuesday against No. 4 Air Academy (20-5). The time is to be determined, with another 6:30 p.m. start likely.

TCA 11 11 9 12 — 43

WHS 7 11 18 13 — 49

TCA — Bervig 4 1-1 11, Boyles 3 4-6 10, Queener 3 4-6 10, Walters 3 1-1 7, Walker 1 3-4 5, Feldotto 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 13-18 43

WHS — Michaela Moran 6 1-1 13, Ally Kennis 4 1-2 9, Hollie Hoffman 4 0-1 8, Madi Denzel 3 1-2 7, Adalyn Vergara 2 2-4 6, Sam Greene 2 0-0 4, Karly Mathern 0 2-2 2, Chaynee Kingsbury 0 0-1 0. Totals 19 7-13 49

3-point field goals — TCA 2 (Bervig 2); WHS 0.

Total fouls — TCA 18; WHS 16.