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Published: 2/22/2008

Waite's first-half barrage finishes Start

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

It happened so fast and was so decisive that Start coach Bob Brown could hardly explain it.

That it was the game-breaking 18-2 blitz Waite put together over the final 6:07 of the first half in last night's Division I girls district basketball semifinal at Central Catholic's Sullivan Center.

It enabled the Indians (15-7) to take a stunning 30-11 halftime lead en route to a 57-49 win over Start (17-4), which found the hole too deep to dig out of.

"I don't know," said Brown, trying to describe what went wrong late in the first half. "Maybe it was our youth a little, I guess. I don't know.

"We didn't make plays. You've got to make plays, and we had way too many turnovers. We played their game the whole first half, and we were in big trouble."

Natasha Howard, Waite's standout 6-foot-3 sophomore forward, paced the Indians with 20 points and 12 rebounds.

Waite's lone senior, guard Kenya Middlebrooks, on a mission to keep her prep career alive, added 13 points and six boards.

"It's tough being the only senior," Middlebrooks said. "If you lose, you're out. So, that gave me a lot more determination to go out there and play hard.

"We just needed to sit down and play good defense and stay as a team. We put a little pressure on them, and we got a lot of steals and turnovers."

The win sets up a rubber match between the City

League's top teams in tomorrow's 2 p.m. district final at Perrysburg. Waite, the CL runner-up and No. 2 seed, faces top-seeded City-champion Central Catholic (20-3), which pounded Northview 68-36 in its semifinal last night.

Waite beat Central 70-57 in CL play, and the Irish got revenge 68-50 in the Feb. 9 City final.

Start was led by freshman guard Maleeka Kynard, who scored 11 of her team-high 15 points in the final quarter, when the Spartans got within 53-47 in the final 26 seconds.

Waite coach Manny May was not satisfied with his team's total performance.

"We played very good in the first half with the pressure," May said, "and then we went lackadaisical in the second half. With a big lead, I think, as young kids, they were thinking they had this in the bag. But we had to hold on at the end. I'm glad what we did in the first half, but we need to tighten up in the second half."

Spartan junior center Yolanda Richardson had 10 points and 15 rebounds, and senior guard T.T. Arnold added 11 points for Start, which dropped three of its final four games after beginning 16-1.

Start trailed 12-9 after freshman forward Azia Bishop's free throw 6:11 before halftime and were within 15-11 after a Richardson layup 5:27 before the break.

But Waite, which forced Start into 10 second-quarter turnovers (23 total), turned up the defensive heat and reaped the rewards in transition. The Indians scored 15 unanswered points in the last 4:35 before halftime.

The 19-point lead proved to be a big enough cushion for Waite, which did not exactly close out in style. The Indians were 8-of-24 shooting and were outboarded 27-11 after the break.

Freshman forward Shanice McNeal added 10 points and seven rebounds off the bench for Waite, which also got eight points from sophomore point guard Courtney Jackson.

Waite was 21-of-57 (37 percent) from the field, 15-of-23 from the line, and had 36 boards and 16 turnovers.

Start was 19-of-56 (34 percent) from the field and 7-of-16 from the line.

Contact Steve Junga at:

sjunga@theblade.com

or 4190724-6461.



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