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Collegiate has last rally to top Lady Saints

Senior forward Grace Saunders played one of the best games she’s ever played on the basketball court for the Lady Saints Friday.

Unfortunately for the hosts, Saunders wound up scoring more than half her team’s points and not getting enough help as Collegiate of Richmond outscored the Lady Saints 12-2 in the last four minutes and won 47-36.

Saunders canned jumpers in the paint and was perfect from the line in scoring 17 of her 21 points in the second half and she kept the Lady Saints in the game until Collegiate’s decisive rally.

Both teams played a methodical, half-court game in the first half. NSA and Collegiate traded 30-second to 1-minute-long possessions. Both teams played sound, patient defense, so even with good ball movement during the long possessions, tough shots were still what both sides got for the most part.

NSA scored the first four points of the game and held the Lady Cougars scoreless for the opening 4:47. NSA led 8-7 after one quarter and 11-9 with 3:34 left in the half.

Collegiate held NSA to one made field goal in the second quarter and after the last two minutes of the half were scoreless for both teams, Collegiate led 13-12 at the break.

The Lady Cougars put together, at least in such a slow-paced, low-scoring game, seemed to be a huge run, an 11-2 run, in the first 2:20 of the second half.

NSA answered to the deficit mainly with Saunders making plays in and around the paint. Point guard Virginia Hassell worked a pick, roll and, in effect, an alley-oop pass to Saunders going in for a lay-up that turned into a three-point play that brought NSA within a 26-24 deficit in the final seconds of the third period. Saunders scored nine of NSA’s 12 points in the period.

A pull-up 15-foot jumper by Hassell made it 26-26 0:35 into the fourth period. NSA would tie Collegiate three times in the next couple minutes, but the Lady Saints never took the lead.

Saunders was 9-for-9 at the foul line in the second half and made two of those nine to bring NSA within 35-34.

Collegiate forced NSA turnovers on three of the next four Lady Saint possessions and suddenly, the game went from going down to the wire to Collegiate having a 42-34 lead when NSA called a timeout with 2:28 left.

The three-point shot had been a good ally for the Lady Saints (5-4) in some of their wins in the last few weeks, but NSA finished 0-for-7 from beyond the arc Friday, making a last-minute comeback even tougher.

Saunders finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Hassell was the next-highest NSA scorer with six points and 11 rebounds.

The Lady Saints travel to face Bishop Sullivan on Tuesday evening in a non-Tidewater Conference game. After Tuesday, nine of NSA’s 10 remaining regular season games are TCIS contests.

NSA is ranked No. 11 in Virginia Independent Schools, Div. I in the coaches poll from Jan. 12. Collegiate is No. 9 and Bishop Sullivan is No. 6, both in Div. I. Twelve schools will make the state tournament.