If Waite is the No. 1 girls basketball team in the City League, the Start Spartans made a strong case for being No. 1-A last night.
Waite (3-0, 3-0 CL) needed to rally from a nine-point deficit late in the third quarter to escape with a 71-65 victory at Start (5-1, 2-1).
Indians senior guard Shareese Ulis, the two-time CL player of the year, scored 10 of her game-high 30 points in the final 6:07, helping Waite rally from a 59-53 deficit.
"Shareese just knows how to carry her team," Waite coach Manny May said. "She knows how to bring her team to the level they need to be, and carry them to where they can stay in the game.
"I never get surprised by what she does because she works that hard at it."
Another key to Waite's 27-14 final-period rally was Ulis' tenacious defense in Waite's press, which forced 10 Spartan turnovers in the quarter.
"I just let the game come to me," said Ulis, who went scoreless in the third quarter. "I try not to force anything, and I try to get my teammates involved."
Waite also got 19 points and 10 rebounds from promising 6-3 freshman forward Natasha Howard.
Start got 28 points from standout junior guard Ke-Ke Marsenburg, plus 22 points and 12 boards from 6-1 sophomore post Yolanda Richardson.
The first half developed into an individual offensive duel between Marsenburg and Ulis. Each tallied 18 points before halftime, which came with Start holding a 37-33 lead.
Waite got off to a hot start with a 9-2 run in the opening
1:47, but Start answered with an impressive 16-4 surge and was even at 18-18 heading to the second quarter.
The Indians knotted things at 37-37 when Stephanie Keaton and Howard opened the third quarter with a pair of put-back baskets, but the 6-3 Howard drew her third foul and went to the bench with 4:44 left in that period.
That's when Richardson took over. The promising 6-1 sophomore post player, with Howard out of the picture, scored 10 of her points on five third-quarter field goals.
The resulting 12-3 run shot the Spartans out to a 49-40 lead on Richardson's fifth of those five buckets with 2:37 left in the third.
Although Marsenburg did her best to keep the Spartans on top down the stretch, adding eight points, the fourth quarter belonged to Ulis.
Scoreless in the third quarter, Ulis scored 10 of her 30 points in the final 6:07, collected three rebounds and helped force most of Start's 10 fourth-quarter turnovers.
Her steal and coast-to-coast drive for a bucket in the lane with 56 seconds seconds remaining gave Waite its first lead (66-65) since midway in the second quarter.
Crucial in the Spartans' unraveling - they were outscored 12-2 in the final 2:24 - was the loss of guard T.T. Arnold, who left the court after falling hard on her back early in the final period.
"We definitely were wondering where we were [among CL contenders], and we found out tonight," said Start coach Bob Brown. "We're going to battle with everybody.
"I told them, 'This is just Game 1. If we keep getting better and doing everything that I'm telling them to do, I think we're going to be a tough team to play toward the end.' We played really well, but we just had some turnovers at the end."
Ulis tallied the Tribe's final seven points, including a 5-for-6 effort from the free throw line in the final 39 seconds.
Start was 29 of 56 (52 percent) from the field and 6 of 8 from the line, but committed 25 turnovers to 14 for Waite and was outrebounded 36-34.
The Indians were 24 of 59 (41 percent) from the field and 19 of 30 from the line.
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