FORESTVILLE – While playing her third game in four days, Liatu King did not complain.
The senior for the Bishop McNamara High School girls basketball team understood the ramifications of her play (zero points in the first half) and its effects. The Mustangs entered halftime down by seven points and needing a spark on offense.
“We needed to win, and with that being said, I needed to step up,” King said. “It not about the points, it was how much I can help my team at any given point, whether it is a steal, a block or scoring.”
With fatigue, King powered through, scoring 15 points in the second half, including five points in overtime, to help lead McNamara to a 55-52 comeback victory over Elizabeth Seton High School on Jan. 11.
King’s bounce-back performance in the second half, along with a team-high 20 points by guard Madison Scott, was enough to help McNamara (16-2) to finish a rough stretch of games with its 13th consecutive overall victory. The Forestville-based squad has not lost since Dec. 7 and has not lost to a Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) opponent this season.
“Sometimes, you are going to battle through fatigue,” McNamara Head Coach Frank Oliver Jr. said. “That is normal, but we are preaching to our kids to be mentally strong, and I am proud of them for battling through adversity and coming out with a victory.”
Meanwhile, the Roadrunners (10-4) were looking to regain their top form after losing to St. John’s College High School on Jan. 9.
They rushed to an early 12-2 lead by using their speed to score in transition and converted their free throws. Senior point guard Tyler Gray led the offense with her drives to the hoop and quick assists.
Gray scored a game-high 25 points, but was most explosive when facilitating assists to her teammates. As the Mustangs looked to regroup in the second quarter, Gray fed the ball to fellow senior Ava Robinson for two consecutive 3-pointers to keep the Mustangs lead in the double-digits. Seton entered halftime with a seven-point advantage, stunning many observers in the home crowd.
Gray anchored the Seton offense to a 7-2 run to start the second half, capping it off with a layup in transition and gave the Roadrunners their largest lead (13 points) of the game.
However, after a timeout call and talking to the coaching staff, King woke up in the second half. McNamara players began passing the ball to the 6-foot star for closer shots by the rim. King muscled her way out of multiple double teams to score points. With her dominance in the paint, along with Scott’s ability to drive down the lane for a quick basket, McNamara went on a 9-1 run of its own, reducing their deficit to a point at the start of the fourth quarter.
“That was Tu’s quarter,” Scott said of King’s late-game performance. “She came through in a big way for us, and we needed that. We had other people stepping up, so we just trust our team, and it led to the W.”
Seton attempted to keep McNamara at bay, but a steal by 5-foot-2 point guard Hope Evans turned into a quick two points, giving the Mustangs its first lead of the game late in the fourth quarter.
Both teams would trade shots, with King scoring the game-tying shot with less than 35 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime.
Oliver told his team not to divert from the game plan of trying to work the ball to King or Scott. Both seniors controlled the tempo of the extra period, with King leading the way with five points to seal the victory for the Mustangs.
Sophomore Regina Walton scored the team’s only non-free throw points in overtime with a 3-pointer. Aside from Gray’s performance, no other Roadrunner reached the double digits in scoring. The senior said she believes that her teammates, mostly juniors and sophomores, will learn to bounce back from the loss to test McNamara again when they meet again on Feb. 14
“We knew they were a high intensity team, so we knew we had to come out and push them,” Gray said. “We exploited what they lacked on defense, and that was the only thing we could do, and overall, I think (my teammates) did well.”
McNamara will have two games within ten days, a more manageable schedule, before traveling to take on St. John’s on Jan. 21. After facing adversity against a tough Seton team, King said she believes that they can take on any conference opponents moving forward.
“We weren’t doing well with that last year,” King said, “Now, I can say we don’t hold our heads down, we are always confident, and whatever the score may be, we know we can come back. We know what we can do, and we trust each other.”