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Lady Eagles bounce Hercules High from North Coast Section playoffs, face Oakland powerhouse Bishop O’Dowd on Wednesday

on February 26, 2013

The energy prior to the Lady Eagles’ tip off against Hercules High Friday night didn’t seem like a winner-take-all atmosphere. Instead, Kennedy’s Coach Dolly Felix Gym felt more like a quiet church or a place where something sad was taking place.

Maybe the shot clock felt it too, as the 30-second timer near the gym’s entrance failed to illuminate. For 15 minutes, Dewayne Hoskin, Kennedy’s boys’ head basketball coach, and Dajuan Alexander, the Lady Eagles’ assistant coach, tried to resolve the problem by climbing a ladder to reach a switch above the backboard. In the end, coaches and officials decided to play the game with only one clock.

That just meant one less clock for the Lady Eagles to beat, as they pulled off another inspired last-second win to advance in the North Coast Section playoffs.

Hercules came out running. The frantic first-quarter pace tired Kennedy, and after two previously unsuccessful attempts, Daniel Guy, the head coach of the Hercules Lady Titans, seemed to have found a way to defeat Kennedy.

The second quarter saw much of the same break-neck speed, but the Lady Eagles’ foul count started to climb. By the end of the first half, Kennedy had 13 fouls against them, while Hercules had four.

At halftime Lady Eagles’ head coach Rae Jackson told his players they were physically and mentally prepared to beat seven: five Hercules players, plus the two referees. “The refs are sending a message that you’re not going to be able to play your aggressive style of defense,” he said. “Even if you move your feet, or you’re in position, it doesn’t matter. But we can prevail in this situation.”

To keep his players from fouling out, Kennedy’s coaching staff decided to play a 2-3 zone defense in the second half. “We’re going to pack it in and we’re going to make them make shots,” Jackson said of their new strategy. “We got two of the best rebounders in the conference, and we’re going to rebound.”

The new game plan worked as Kennedy built an eight-point lead halfway through the third quarter. But after a quick timeout, Hercules was more determined than ever to penetrate the stingy defense. Lady Titans’ forward Etiene Ekanem took everything into her own left hand and scored 19 of her game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter.

And with a little more than 10 seconds to go in regulation Hercules took a 66-65 lead. But Jackson never broke a sweat. The Lady Eagles’ head coach decided to call a seldom-used trick play to inbound the ball and race down court to find a wide-open Linsay Chao under the basket.

“I was nervous and thought I was going to miss it,” Chao said of her uncontested layup with three seconds left to go in the game. “It felt good.”

While the girls celebrated in the locker room with cupcakes and red roses, Lady Eagles’ assistant head coach Dajuan Alexander told his players they were running the basketball program to a T. “Way to control your emotions in this game,” he said. “Everything was stacked against y’all, and y’all showed a lot of self control and discipline not to get over excited. You guys stuck to the script and then at the end of the game y’all executed.”

The road through the playoffs doesn’t get any easier. Next up is Oakland powerhouse Bishop O’Dowd. According to Massey computer rankings O’Dowd is the sixth best team in the country.

“When you look at them it’ll be like Cal’s starting five,” Jackson said of their next opponent. “They have two 18-and-under Olympic players—one going to Duke, one going to Virginia and the point guard is going to San Diego State. So you’re playing five professional basketball players.”

But Jackson isn’t concerned. He said he has a game plan up his sleeve and a very capable team.

Tip off is 6 p.m. Wednesday at Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland.

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