When Connally guard Miannah Little came off a screen late in the Lady Cadets’ crucial district game against rival La Vega, all she could see was Lady Pirates towering forward Ta’Naiya Norwood.
So with the game tied and the clock ticking away the final seconds of the fourth quarter, Little stepped back and sent her team to the playoffs. The Connally sophomore nailed a jumper from just beyond the free-throw line to lift the Lady Cadets to a 48-46 victory on Tuesday night at the La Vega High School gym.
Little’s clutch shot came with 5.8 seconds remaining. La Vega called timeout and then inbounded the ball to point guard Montierra Warren, who made a coast-to-coast dash to the basket. But Warren, who finished with a team-leading 19 points, couldn’t get her jumper in the lane to fall and Connally celebrated the win.
“I was just thinking in my mind, we’ve got to score to win so we won’t have to go into overtime,” Little said. “We just gave it our all.”
The Lady Cadets (22-12, 6-6 in District 17-4A) earned a sweep in the district series with La Vega (15-15, 6-6), and in doing so the Lady Cadets claimed the fourth-place playoff berth from 17-4A in the upcoming playoffs.
Connally will play 18-4A champion Fairfield in the bi-district round early next week.
Little finished with 19 points to lead Connally and forward Heaven Lang-Tucker added 14.
Norwood scored 16 points and grabbed 16 rebounds. She made a bank shot in the lane to give the Lady Pirates a 31-21 advantage less than two minutes into the third quarter.
But Connally held Norwood to three points after that, disrupting La Vega’s momentum on offense.
“We knew Norwood was hurting us inside,” Connally coach Taylor Sims said. “We just said, ‘We’re going to double her when she gets it in the paint, try to slow her down and then scramble to cover their shooters outside.’ Anything we could do to limit her getting the ball was great.”
The Lady Cadets’ strategy on the defensive end worked and they successfully chipped away at La Vega’s lead for the rest of the third quarter.
When Lang-Tucker nailed a 3-pointer less than a minute into the fourth quarter, Connally had cut the Lady Pirates’ lead to a single point and served notice that this one would be another barnburner.
“The first time we played La Vega, we were down 10-0 to start the game and then we were down 10 in the fourth with about five minutes left,” Sims said. “We came back and we scored with about nine seconds left. Ended up winning that game by one, so it was almost a carbon copy tonight.”
Guard Cierra Stewart connected from beyond the arc to give Connally a 42-40 edge with 5:41 left, the Lady Cadets first lead of the game.
La Vega guard Jaurne Hubert responded with a trey that caused the home crowd to roar and put the Lady Pirates back in front 44-43 with 4:01 remaining.
Connally had a 46-44 advantage with 50 seconds before Warren went coast-to-coast for a layup to tie it, setting up Little’s game-winner.