By Nelson Coffin
During a couple of preseason scrimmages, end-of-game opportunities for Annapolis Area Christian School did not turn out well.
On Tuesday evening in Brooklandville, however, the Eagles did a whole lot better with the game against St. Paul’s School for Girls on the line and the final seconds peeling off the scoreboard clock in the B Conference basketball opener for both teams.
With the score tied, 70-70, the Gators were charged with a shot-clock violation when they were looking to snap the deadlock and instead turned the ball over to AACS with 6.2 seconds remaining in regulation.
Following a momentary hesitation after inbounding the ball, junior guard Reniyah Ross barreled down the court only to be confronted by a St. Paul’s defender.
With her path to the glass blocked, Ross quickly bounced a pass to freshman guard Koi Sims, whose layup slipped through the net as the buzzer sounded to give the Eagles a 72-70 victory.
“I drove to the basket and there was a defender in front of me,” Ross said. “I saw Koi open and I got her the ball.”
Sims, who also hauled down a game-high 21 rebounds, was pumped to get the game-winner.
“It was my time,” said Sims, who finished with 15 points while Ross paced the Eagles with 21 points and five assists.
AACS coach Jim Domoracki said that the Eagles have practiced the play frequently, and this time it paid off.
“Reniyah had to read the defense and react,” he said. “She showed a lot of poise and composure.”
The score seesawed during the second half, with St. Paul’s game-long lead lost in the third quarter and then regained in the final period on a drive by sophomore guard Destiny Ryles with five minutes to go.
The Gators were still up, 70-66, with just under two minutes remaining in regulation before free throws by AACS senior guard Camille Sims and a scoop shot by Ross knotted the score with 38 seconds left.
Then came the shot-clock violation and the the final play that sent St. Paul’s and coach Pat Conrad to defeat despite a gallant effort.
“Our kids are tough as nails,” he said. “They were flying all over the court. We just really don’t have much size, so we try to speed teams up.”
The Gators only had three players on the bench, which means the each player has to be versatile.
“The benefit of that is that they can play multiple positions,” Conrad said.
The first half was all about the Gators’ guards either penetrating against the defense or blowing right by the Eagles while building a 36-30 advantage.
Ryles, who finished with a game-high 33 points, was a major reason why St. Paul’s was able to keep, and eventually extend, the lead.
The cushion reached double digits when junior Devan Conrad’s jumper put the Gators up, 41-30, early in the third period before the Eagles rallied.
“Their guards were phenomenal in the first half,” Domoracki said about Ryles, junior Ava Wax and sophomore Alex Sawyers. “They did a real number on us, and we did a poor job on help-side defense. They were getting a ton of free throws. Pat’s a great coach and his kids always play hard, but we told our kids at halftime to 'play like you practice.' ”
After three non-conference wins, the Eagles are now 4-0 this season.