Dynasti Smith-Malone picked a good time for her first game-winning shot.
A 5-foot-5 senior, Ellet’s Smith-Malone had a game-high 18 points and added a dramatic touch Thursday night, swishing a 12-foot jumper from the right baseline to give the host Orangemen a 47-45 lead with 14.5 seconds left.
And that became the final score when Kenmore’s potential game-winning 3-point attempt bounced off the left side of the rim and the final buzzer sounded before anyone could corral the loose ball.
It culminated an unlikely comeback by Ellet, which gained sole possession of second place in the City Series girls basketball race.
“Yes, it feels pretty nice,” said a beaming Smith-Malone, who said she never made an actual game-winner before. “No, this would be the first time. I actually had to focus, really focus, and put the ball in the basket.”
Ellet (9-6, 8-2) now holds the advantage over Kenmore (9-8, 6-3) to get into the City Series championship game. Firestone, still unbeaten in the league, will presumably earn the top spot. Kenmore defeated Ellet 56-53 in their earlier meeting Dec. 16.
The Orangemen have two City Series games left, including one at Firestone that was postponed by cold weather Monday. The Cardinals have three league games left.
“We kind of dug a hole for ourselves,” Ellet coach Tina Wallace said. “We haven’t practiced for seven straight days. When schools are closed, we’re not allowed to practice. I was kind of worried about this game. Maybe we do better if we don’t practice, I don’t know.”
Kenmore led the entire second half and was up 45-40 before Ellet’s 5-9 junior J’mae Griggs converted a three-point play to make it 45-43 with 57.6 seconds left.
Kendra Love, like Smith-Malone a senior co-captain, grabbed a Kenmore rebound and dribbled the length of the court for the game-tying layup with 42 seconds left.
After a Kenmore turnover, an Ellet missed free throw resulted in a jump-ball situation with the arrow pointing Ellet’s way, setting up Smith-Malone’s clutch shot.
Love, a 5-4 point guard, sat out the second quarter with two fouls. She scored all 13 of her points in the second half, nine in the fourth quarter.
“I got in foul trouble and had to pick it up for my team,” Love said. “We were ready for this moment. We knew we could have beaten them the first time, and then everyone got mad but we told them we can have it the next time.”
Marshae Smith, a 5-2 senior, led Kenmore with 13 points, including a steal and driving layup to put the Cardinals up 19-18 at halftime. Kenmore led 30-27 after three quarters and by as much as 37-29 with 5:16 left.
Whiauanna Jeffries, a 5-6 senior guard, had 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Cardinals.
“Very frustrating because we had a plan and it was working,” Kenmore coach Yontami Jones said. “We got up five, and then just being impatient. One of my girls took a jumper we didn’t need to take. Then they got the ball and scored. Then they got an and-one. We’ve just got to be a little more disciplined.”
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