Scott looks to recapture its midseason form, and defending-champion Waite hopes to earn a chance at repeating its title when the City League girls basketball playoff semifinals tip off tomorrow at Waite.
Scott (13-4, 10-1), the No. 1 seed, takes on fourth-seeded Bowsher (11-7, 8-3) in the 6:30 p.m. semifinal, and second-seeded Waite (15-3, 10-1) faces third-seeded Central Catholic (11-7, 9-2) at 8:30 p.m.
First-year coach Darrell Dorn's Bulldogs were riding high Jan. 18 when they squeezed out a 56-54 home win over Waite on a game-winning put-back basket in the closing seconds by senior center Shanice Sample. That win ultimately earned Scott the No. 1 seed for the playoffs.
But fresher in Dorn's mind are the humbling 65-39 defeat at Central on Feb. 1, and a close call in a 49-43 win at Start last Wednesday to conclude league play.
"I do have some concerns,'' Dorn said, "because we pretty much got complacent. Our girls seemed kind of satisfied just getting to the final four, and they weren't working as hard as they should be to finish our goal, which is to win the City championship.
"Once we beat Waite, we seemed to lose focus. We need to get hungry again. We need to find some consistency, focus and execution. If we can get those things back, we can finish the season successfully."
Scott is paced by senior guards Miesha Blackshear (13.4 points per game) and Precious Hands (10.8), with help from the powerful inside play of Sample (9.9 points, 9.4 rebounds).
Bowsher, which has qualified for the playoffs for the fifth straight year under eighth-year coach Karen Lake, also gave Scott a battle on Jan. 25, losing 55-48 on the road thanks in large part to its woeful 15-of-40 effort at the foul line.
"We definitely have to shoot better at the line this time," Lake said. "They are more athletic and quicker than we are, so we have to come out with the same intensity we did last time. We have to take it to them and attack them inside, and hopefully get them in foul trouble.
"We also have to keep them off the offensive boards."
Bowsher is led by junior guard-forward Stephany Johnson (15.9 points, 6.2 boards), sophomore guard Tiara Roberts (9.8 points), senior forward Erin Cassidy (8.8 points, 6.9 rebounds), and senior guard Lauren Crockett (7.7 points).
In the second semifinal, Waite looks for its third straight victory over perennial CL power Central.
The Indians upset the Fighting Irish in last year's league semifinals at Rogers, snapping Central's run of eight consecutive playoff championships. Waite then beat Notre Dame Academy in the City title game. Waite also clipped the visiting Irish 58-48 this season, using the 3-point shooting of junior guard Anedria Allen to pull away in the second half on Dec. 21.
"I believe it's going to be a dogfight," Waite coach Manny May said. "Beating Central last year in the semifinals and then again this year, I'm sure coach [Steve] Pfahler will have his team fired up and ready to play. Both teams are going to have to be ready to match the other's intensity."
Waite's fortunes rest largely in the hands of the outside-inside combination of standout junior guard Shareese Ulis (19.2 points, 6 assists per game), the CL's leading scorer and reigning player of the year, and 5-11 senior forward Tatyana McNeal (13.2 points, 8.2 rebounds), also an All-City selection last year.
Judging by its recent success against Scott, Central seems to have found its groove at the right time, and Waite can expect a different Central challenge.
"They're the champs until they get beat,'' Pfahler said of Waite, "and they're playing on their home floor. Hopefully we've gotten better to where we can challenge them. The key in the first game was, we didn't shoot well or handle their pressure very well."
Central's strength is a powerful inside game led by senior veterans Ellen Herman (13.8 points, 8.6 rebounds), a 6-1 forward, and Mallory Strall (12.1 points, 5.9 rebounds), a 5-10 forward. They get help from 6-2 sophomore Ashley Frazier and 6-1 freshman Brianna Jones.
The two semifinal winners meet for the City championship at 3 p.m. Saturday at Waite.
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