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Titans pull away from Warriors in fourth quarter

MIKE FORMAN

By MIKE FORMAN
Jan. 20, 2012 at 11:01 p.m.
Updated Jan. 21, 2012 at 7:22 p.m.

Mercedes Ellison shoots a basket for Victoria West. West lost the game 52-41.

Victoria West looked like the playoff team it figures to be, but Victoria East showed its championship mettle.

The Warriors hung around for three quarters before East took over in a 52-41 win on Friday night at the West gym.

"I think we were ready to play, but they came more ready to play," said East guard Danielle Franklin. "We started off slow, but we had a better second half."

The No. 13 Titans (30-2) reached the 30-win mark and maintained sole possession of the District 30-4A lead by improving to 5-0.

The Warriors (17-11, 1-4) gave East a scare, taking a 37-35 lead on a 3-pointer by Sevanah Campos-Reyes with 1:15 left in the third quarter.

But the Titans had the final four points of the quarter and outscored West 15-6 in the fourth quarter.

"I really didn't want to wait for the fourth quarter for that to happen," said East coach Yulonda Wimbish-North. "It was like 'Oh my goodness.' This was a game we couldn't let slip away."

The Warriors showed signs of snapping their three-game losing streak, but were undone at the free throw line.

West converted only 7 of 19 attempts, while East was good on 15 of its 18 tries.

"Making better decisions and of course free throws are always going to kill you if you don't make them," said West coach Sandra Jimenez. "We have to make better decisions in clutch times."

The full-time return of Emily Skipper from a pulled leg muscle helped the Warriors deal with East's full-court pressure.

Skipper's ability to break the press helped set up Mercedes Ellison, who had a team-high 14 points, for open jump shots in the lane.

"I think tonight was a big boost of confidence," Skipper said. "We came out and played as a team and definitely played the best game in district we've played so far."

East was coming off an emotional win over Floresville on Tuesday and had trouble getting into a consistent rhythm.

The Warriors also did a good job on the boards and neutralizing the East post players by getting them into foul trouble.

"We were really flat for whatever reason," Wimbish-North said. "Sometimes when you get really high for a game that happened on Tuesday, you can come out flat for the next game. I can take nothing away from West. They played a great game."

Adelaide Wenzel's layup with 47 seconds remaining in the third quarter put East up to stay.

The Titans held West scoreless for a span of 3:21 of the final quarter while extending their lead from three to 10 points.

"I think our defense picked up and we got steals" Wenzel said. "We started to hold them as tight as we could and we just ran the floor."

Franklin scored 18 points and Wenzel had 15 for the Titans, who remained unbeaten but not completely unbowed.

"The one thing I've always said that's very important to us is defense," Wimbish-North said. "But I don't believe our defense was very good until maybe the fourth quarter.

"We had some spurts where we did well, but overall our rotations and different things, it just wasn't really there. I think we made poor decisions and didn't take care of the basketball."

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