Phoenix, AZ- The Firestorm are used to having people sleep on them, it seems to have been a story line in almost every game they've played this year. Tonight saw the Firestorm reach a height that many around the conference might not have been expecting; they are heading to the Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament.
Coming into the game, the Firestorm (13-11, 7-6 GSAC) knew what was at stake this week. They knew how close their goals were and what they had to do to accomplish them. If anybody had any doubt about their determination, that was erased quickly as the Firestorm jumped out to a 13-2 lead. With Makayla Enders (21 points on the night) leading the charge in the first quarter, the Firestorm set the tone early and often.
Leading 18-10 after the first quarter, the Firestorm kept Hope International (5-18, 0-13 GSAC) uncomfortable through most of the night. Midway through the second quarter though, the Royals showed signs of life with an 11-2 run to capture their first and only lead of the night at 25-22. The Firestorm were able to re-capture the momentum going into the locker closing the half out on a 9-0 run. The run was capped off by a Toni Davis buzzer beating three that gave the Firestorm a 33-28 lead at the half.
"We had very similar starts in both games against Hope", said Coach Odell Berry, "the difference this time was that we hit our open shots, last time we didn't and struggled in the first half".
The second half saw the Royals hang around early, but the Firestorm proved to be too much for them to handle as the outcome was never truly in danger in the half. With a final score of 69-54, the Firestorm handled their business in great fashion tonight. The defensive turn around compared to the previous meeting made Coach Berry very happy as he was reflective of how far his defense has come this season.
"We defended their entire team better this time only giving up 54 points" Berry said, "definitely one of our best efforts of the season. I felt we did a good job staying on Terwilliger and keeping the pressure on her. She is such a great player that that's all you can do sometimes."
The win clinches the first GSAC Conference Tournament berth for the Firestorm. With the amount of youth on this team it is another sign that this is only the beginning for this team.
The Firestorm will be back in action on Saturday (4:00 pm) as they face off with #3 Vanguard University on Senior Day.