February 21, 2012
Antelope falls in overtime to Grace Davis in D-II girls opener

Here is coverage of the thrilling Antelope-Grace Davis game in Modesto from colleague Richard T. Estrada at the Modesto Bee.

Richard T. Estrada
Davis High had struggled to get rebounds for much of Tuesday's playoff game, but the Spartans battled to grab three of their missed shots on an overtime possession.

With the season riding on the next shot, the Spartans got the ball to Leslie Escudero for a fourth opportunity.

Her 3-pointer with 20 seconds left lifted the Spartans to a 77-75 overtime victory to open the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 2 playoffs.

"I can't remember a game-winning shot like that one," said Escudero, who played at Modesto Christian before coming to Davis as a junior.

"I was feeling good earlier in the game, but then I started missing my threes late. Coach tells me to keep shooting, though, and I listened."

Escudero's shot stunned Antelope, which had rallied for a 75-74 lead with 1:15 to play in OT. Davis forced a turnover after Escudero's trey, on Antelope's ensuing possession.

Antelope had a final shot, but Ashley Hawkins' jumper rolled off the rim right at the buzzer.

"I was a little nervous late in the game, but I never had a doubt we'd win," said Andrea Hernandez, in her first year coaching the Spartans.

The nail-biter was in contrast to last year's 64-24 first-round loss to Lincoln. Sixth-seeded Davis (23-4) travels to No. 3 McNair (25-3) for a quarterfinal on Thursday.

McNair features 6-foot-4 Mandy Coleman in the middle, but Davis will try and make the Eagles adapt to its smaller, aggressive lineup.

The momentum in Tuesday's game shifted Davis' direction when 5-6 sophomore Tamia Castaneda replaced 6-foot Stephanie Crist -- creating a height disparity that Antelope could not exploit.

All five Spartans were capable of handling the ball, shooting from the perimeter and driving to the hoop.

Antelope had three 6-footers on the court, but the size was somewhat neutralized as Davis picked up the pace.

Antelope led 17-9 after one quarter, but Escudero started firing away and hit three straight treys to spark a 24-5 run for a 35-26 halftime lead.

Escudero (23 points, seven treys), Kelci Haueter (20 points) and Tania Castaneda (14 points) helped Davis to a 10-point lead in the final quarter, but Antelope tied it at 67 with 20 seconds left.

Each team missed a shot late in regulation, but Antelope went ahead 73-72 in OT on Hawkins' layup halfway into the four-minute period.

After the teams swapped baskets, Davis forced a turnover. The Spartans missed three shots with the clock ticking down to 25 seconds, but used their quickness to grab each of those misses.

Haueter saw Escudero on the opposite side, and Escudero shot as soon as she got the pass. Her bench exploded as the ball hit the net.

Escudero hit her first five 3-point shots, missed four of her following five, then hit her career-best seventh to keep Davis' season alive.

Antelope had used its muscle to dominate the opening quarter, even though Davis was looking eye-to-eye with the 6-foot tandem of Hawkins (24 points) and Tyler Ellis (16 points, 14 rebounds).

The lineup shift gave Antelope a big advantage inside, but the Spartans used their quickness to deny the ball.

"I liked the way that lineup played against their size, giving us five guards and a quicker team," said Hernandez, whose team's up-tempo style surprised Antelope.

So did Escudero's treys.

"It's not something we did a lot of during the regular season, but Leslie's heating up," Hernandez said. "They had to pick their poison. Do they let Leslie shoot and focus on Kelci inside, or come out to defend Leslie and let Kelci go one-on-one inside?"

Haueter was scoreless in the first quarter, but scored 10 in the second. Castaneda scored 10 in the second half, and her aggressive play put Antelope point guard Cameo Warren in foul trouble.

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Bee staff writers Joe Davidson and Bill Paterson provide news, analysis and insight on the area high school sports scene in their Prep Blog. Have a question to ask them? Send them an email any time at jdavidson@sacbee.com or bpaterson@sacbee.com.

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