The Raiders (17-2, 13-2 in league meetings) used a 10-2 run at the start of the third quarter to pull away from North Valleys (7-16, 3-12) on the road Tuesday night and escape with a 60-41 win over the Panthers.
“They just came in and I think we got in that ‘oh, we have already beat this team (66-24 on Jan. 14 at Reed), it should be pretty easy’ kind of thing and that’s what we looked like the first two quarters,” Ramirez said.
Reed led 12-6 early in the first quarter after a Nakiyah LeSure (game-high 15 points) transition layup but the Panthers trailed just 14-11 going into the second quarter after Morgan Daniels finished a three-point play the hard way at the buzzer. Daniels led North Valleys with 11 points.
Leading by as much as seven in the second quarter, Brittany Brownson snuck the hosts within 26-22 with 33 seconds to play in the half. Reed extended the lead at halftime to 29-22 after a Brooke Cervantes (10 points) layup and a Tyler Sumpter (nine points) free throw.
Ramirez said her halftime speech was not going to put her in the running for any coaching awards.
“There were a lot of holes in the zone that we just weren’t taking advantage of. It’s like ‘guys, I don’t have to draw up a play. You just have to wake up and start playing some defense’…,” Ramirez said. “It was just getting on them to do some things. Then right off the bat we went on a nice little roll.”
Ramirez showed rare emotion at the start of the half, attempting to re-energize her group and the Raiders responded with the run that put them in front 39-24, a run the Panthers could not overcome.
Reed edged North Valleys the remainder of the third quarter and took a 46-29 advantage into the final eight minutes.
Showing signs of fatigue, the Raiders nipped North Valleys 14-11 in the fourth quarter.
Reed also struggled at the free-throw line Tuesday night, connecting on just half of its 30 attempts.
“I don’t know (why we struggled at the free-throw line),” Ramirez said. “Our defense always gets us in rhythm, so when we’re not playing defense, we’re just standing around. Then our rhythm never gets on and it just kind of makes it hard to knock stuff down.”
Aneesa Mwakapumba chipped in 13 points for the Raiders in the win.
Ramirez said she challenged her seniors after the game and is not worried about the effect of Tuesday night’s performance heading into the playoffs.
“I just told them, the chances of us getting to the state championship are right there for us to take…,” Ramirez said.
The Raiders played without senior post Tina Vernon, who Ramirez said may have a tear in her knee – a lingering injury from a PE class earlier this year. Vernon will have an MRI on the knee Thursday.
If the injury is determined to be serious, Vernon would join fellow senior Gabby Williams, a UConn commit, on the list of Raiders suffering season-ending injuries. Williams had surgery on her knee in Connecticut Thursday and Ramirez said she is walking without crutches.
As of Tuesday night, Ramirez believed the future UConn Husky would be on Reed’s bench for the regular-season finale – Senior Night – Friday at home against Spanish Springs. Tip is at 5:15 p.m.