In easily one of the best games in recent local history, Wagner trumped Johnson in Double OT. Here are some game notes:
Tesha Smith was a Boss! Smith established herself early and often for the T-birds. Johnson refused to front Smith in the post and allowed her to give Wagner a double digit lead early in the first quarter. Smith was a constant all night, finishing with 19 points and 25 rebounds! Johnson's Bailey Ulrich did a good job in the second half of making it difficult for Smith. Without her efforts, Smith was on pace for a 30-30 game. Smith is easily the most improved player in the city. From JV player last season to a STAR this season.
How is this for a stat line: 20 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocks. That is what Recee' Caldwell did for Johnson, all while playing 39 consecutive minutes before fouling out of double overtime. Caldwell was defended by three separate defenders, Adriane and Aundrea Davis and Corinna Moncada. When she passed in the open court, Wagner went to a denial in an attempt to denial and made her work to get it back. She controlled the tempo and touched paint at will. Pretty impressive physical effort and performance on that stage for a kid that should be in the 9th grade.
Gabbie Bowie was very impressive! The sophomore for Johnson has shown glimpses of brilliance all season but last night was her coming out party. Bowie used her deft pull up jumper to score 17 points and snatched 10 boards. The way she exploded off of the floor to grab rebounds in traffic left an impression on many. She displayed her improved handle to set up her scoring opportunities. The former post player from El Paso is now a legit perimeter threat and last night was the opportune time to exhibit her hard work. Watch Out!
Corrina Moncada was clutch. I have been watching her since she was a tiny 11 year old fire plug and her tenacity has always been evident. Moncada hit 3 huge free throws with her team down 3, to send the game into double overtime. Moncada did a very good job running the team in the absence of the Twins, who fouled out late in the game. Anyone who knows Moncada's game, had very little doubt that she would nail the free throws. She is wired to compete.
Tina Camacho- The Wagner coach was at her best. I doubt she ever has had a better win in her long and distinguished career. Yes, she has had BIGGER wins, but better, probably not. The adjustments she made after losing her veteran back court to fouls were noteworthy.
Defensively, she abandoned the Man Defense and went back to a compacted 1-2-2 zone in the clutch. Johnson had trouble solving the zone earlier in the game. Camacho went to it to get key stops late. She rotated three defenders at Caldwell and shadowed her with Smith when she beat her on ball pressure. She mixed in the 3/4 court press to keep Johnson off balance.
Offensively, she was even more brilliant. She pounded the ball into Smith, who was being guarded by a defender giving up 6 inches. Johnson refused to front Smith so Camacho kept pounding the ball inside. When Johnson doubled down on Smith, Camacho had Ashely Ross dive to the basket for a crucial score in the second OT. She ran multiple out of bound sets for scores. She utilized her timeouts to giver her thin bench rest and needed instruction.
Her biggest contributions were referee management and leadership. She repeatedly held her kids in timeouts beyond the whistle. This left Johnson's players standing on the court, waiting extended periods of time while they observed her in deep instruction with her team. During a foul call that resulted in the disqualification of her veteran guard, she protested for numerous MINUTES. She questioned the official book and made her case for MINUTES. All the while, Johnson had a freshman set to shoot foul shots to win the biggest game of her life. This icing of the shooter without calling a timeout was brilliant. The Johnson freshman sat at the free throw line for MINUTES, contemplating the magnitude of her fouls shots.
Her leadership led Wagner to victory. Before she inserted a freshman(Kiana Clark) that would go on to hit the game winning shot, she held her two hands in hers and spoke directly into her eyes. Her speech was methodical and clear. What she told this kid, I do not know. Whatever it was, it worked. This kid performed above any ones expectations and her coach made sure to walk her through these clutch moments. I sat and watched a different coach spend half of a timeout trying to find her clip board in a recent game. Camacho could have written a novel with how many times and the length of time that she spent diagramming CLEAR instructions to her team. This competence instilled a belief in her kids that allowed them to win.