Last week, after handling business against Hillsdale High School, the Mills girls’ basketball gave themselves a bit of breathing room atop the Peninsula Athletic League South Division standings.
But it would appear that Carlmont felt like a bit of the oxygen up there belongs to them.
The Scots withstood a furious 19-point fourth quarter comeback by the Vikings to secure a 47-46 victory over Mills and move into a first-place tie with the Vikings atop the PAL South standings
Carlmont led by double digits for most of the game but allowed Taylor Cormier to tie things up at 44-44 in the wanning seconds of the game on back to back steal-and-basket plays as the Scots tried to inbound the ball.
But a couple of free throws in the final seconds, and some big misses by Mills on the interior allowed Calrmont to survive.
“I think we came out and played really tough defensively,” said Carlmont head coach Dan Mori. “We had a strong defensive intensity today. The girls made a commitment to playing defense. Mills is a great team and we needed that intensity to come out in top.”
“The first half (was the difference),” said Mills head coach Dave Matsu. “They played hard the whole time and we didn’t. We picked a tough day to play our worse game of the year.”
The number back Matsu’s observation. Mills shot 39 percent from the floor in the game, but were it not for that furious fourth quarter, that percentage was barely touching 30 for the first three quarter and was just 20 in the first half.
“We were getting great looks,” Matsu said. “I wasn’t disappointed at the looks. I was happy with the looks we were getting. We just can’t finish. We got everything we wanted. So, shame on me, shame on us. But, I tell you what, they won. Kudos to them. They’re a good team. We just picked the worst day to play our worst game.”
And still, to Mills’ credit, they hung around to give Carlmont a bit of a scare. The Scots used quarters one and two to be more efficient with their offense and thus build a double-digit lead. The exclamation point came in the final minute of the second quarter when Rachel Lum hit a 3-pointer and Anisah Smith followed that with a running 3-point bomb at the buzzer to give Carlmont a 23-13 lead at the half.
“They were pretty excited,” Mori said of his team at the half. “We said we have to look at it like it’s a 0-0 game. They are going to come out with even more intensity. Their coach is going to have them ready to play the second half so we’re going to have to make sure we come out with the same focus and intensity to meet that aggressiveness.”
Mori was right, the Vikings did come out and were much more productive on the offensive side of the ball. But to Carlmont’s credit, they kept Mills from going on any extended runs. It wasn’t until the two-minute mark of the third quarter when the Vikings finally hit consecutive baskets to cut the deficit to six.
But a small surge at quarter’s end ensured the Scots would take a nine-point advantage heading into the fourth.
Mills kept showing signs of a run as they chipped away at the Carlmont lead. For several moments, the deficit hovered around six or seven points and, through the shooting of Aubrie Businger, Mills actually cut the lead to four points with under a minute to play.
It was after timeout that it looked like Mills just might have the championship mentality to steal a win on the road. In a matter of seconds, Cormier stole two inbound passes and scored from right under the basket to tie the game at 44.
But that is where the comeback finished for the Vikings. They got a decent look at the hoop with Carlmont up 46-44, but Julia Gibbs’ shots hit front iron and sent Mills with the loss.
Smith led all scorers with 26 points.
“Anisah has been great,” Mori said. “She is our leading scorer but the other thing she’s really learned to do is involve the other players offensively. We got some contributions from other people which is huge because that prevents the defense from focusing on just her.”
Mills had three players score in double figures, led by Jamie Martz’s 11 points.
“This league is good,” Matsu said. “It’s our first loss, not our eighth loss.”