Titans hold off late Rams rally to avert heartbreak of last year

Contributing writerDecember 28, 2013 

With the lead quickly dwindling, Todd Beamer High senior center Megan Huff started to have a flashback of last season’s Class 4A West Central District championship game.

It featured her team not being able to hold down a late lead, and a big dose of Mount Rainier High star guard Brittany McPhee scoring buckets at will en route to a comeback victory.

Huff and her Titans teammates were determined not to let the past repeat itself Friday night in Des Moines.

Beamer hit some clutch free-throws down the stretch and held off a late Mount Rainier surge, holding on for a 64-59 victory in a Class 4A SPSL crossover game.

“I was like, ‘No, it’s not going to happen like that way again,’ ” said Huff, recalling last year’s 57-56 loss to the Rams in the title game. “We just knew we had to pick it up.”

After Nia Alexander’s rebound and put-back pushed the Beamer lead to 61-51 with two minutes to play, Mount Rainier cranked up a comeback. Some careless Beamer

turnovers mixed with hot shooting from the Rams nearly eliminated the big cushion. Emily Fiso drilled a 3-pointer with 49 seconds to play, cutting the Titans’ lead to 61-59. But Beamer eventually regrouped, and Te’Lea Culp and Alexander combined to go 3-for-4 from the line to close out the game and secure the win.

“That’s part of our team getting mature,” Beamer coach Corey Alexander said. “We’re still kind of young … (we play) a lot of sophomores. A game like this to pull it out … it shows a little bit of maturity.”

Nia Alexander, the coach’s daughter, led the way for Beamer (6-0, 6-0 SPSL South) with 17 points — including a pair of clutch free throws with six seconds left.

“I was just focused,” she said. “(I) tried to just tune everybody out. I just tried to make sure I was concentrating — just me and the hoop.”

Huff, a University of Hawaii recruit, added 16 points, seven rebounds and five blocked shots, delivering an all-around solid defensive performance guarding the Stanford-bound McPhee.

“I just knew I had to shut her down,” Huff said. “I just tried to pick up my game as much as I could. (I know) at the next level, that’s what I’m going to have to face.”

It looked early in the second half Beamer was going to coast to the victory down the stretch. Bria Rice (16 points) drilled a 3-pointer to beat the third-quarter buzzer — giving her 10 points in the quarter — as Beamer led 52-44 after three.

“Our girls were focused all summer, and they came back hungry,” Corey Alexander said.

But with a star like McPhee, Mount Rainier (6-2, 5-0 SPSL North) is never out of any game. The guard scored 11 second-half points, finishing with 25, to nearly bring the Rams back. She also tallied 10 rebounds, four blocks and three steals.

“This is the first time (this season) we’ve faced a strong team with a strong player like Brittany McPhee,” Corey Alexander said. “I told them it’s a team effort. Our girls really came together today as a team.”

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