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Bartlett's Nina Pavell goes to the basket as East Aurora's Brittney Burrell defends Tuesday. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media
Just 17 seconds into Tuesday’s Upstate Eight Valley contest, East Aurora senior Tyshee Towner scored on a layup to reach 1,000 points for her career.
Towner would do her part to keep the Tomcats in the game, but Bartlett countered with a balanced offensive attack to win 53-43.
“They outplayed us from beginning to end, and we had some mental breakdowns and they capitalized on them,” East Aurora coach Bill Anderson said. “We just didn’t have much of a response especially on defense in the second half.”
The Hawks took control in the third quarter. They scored the first five points of the second half to take a 31-20 lead. Shortly thereafter, 6-foot-2 senior Alyssa Hernandez came alive.
Hernandez, who didn’t have a field goal in the first half, had three buckets in the final three minutes of the quarter to give Bartlett a 39-26 edge.
“We knew (Desiree) Rhodes had three fouls and they told me to just go at her,” Hernandez said. “That’s why I just went hard at her and tried to get her out of the game and it worked.”
Hernandez’s presence inside continued in the fourth quarter as the Hawks increased their lead to as many as 20 points. Hernandez led the Hawks with 14 points and eight rebounds. Elizabeth Arco added 10 points and eight rebounds.
Some of Hernandez and Arco’s success came to fruition thanks to three-pointers by Chantel Zasada, Ally Giampapa and Nina Pavell, which helped spread out the East Aurora defense.
“I keep telling the girls that teams are going to collapse on us so we have to get them to respect perimeter shooting,” Bartlett coach Denise Sarna said. “I think they gave us more space to work and then did a good job of getting Alyssa the ball.”
Bartlett (13-10, 7-3) took a 26-20 lead at halftime, finishing each quarter in fine fashion. The Hawks trailed 13-10 with 0.8 seconds left in the first quarter, but Arco converted a three-point play and Giampapa followed by making two free throws via a technical for a 15-13 lead.
East Aurora (7-8, 4-6) tied the game at 20-20 on a Brandi McAlister putback with 4:33 left before halftime, but the Hawks closed the first half on a 6-0 run which culminated on an Ashley Johnson buzzer-beater.
Towner finished with a game-high 19 points and 10 rebounds and Rhodes added 14 points for East Aurora, which was celebrating senior night.