The Washington High School girls’ basketball team built an early lead against Galileo in the Academic Athletic Association semifinals on Tuesday by hitting jump shots, but the well ran dry in the second half.
Against Galileo’s 2-3 zone defense, the Eagles scored 18 points on outside jump shots and led for most of the first half, but shot 0-for-12 from 3-point range after halftime, allowing the Lions to claim a 56-53 victory at Kezar Pavilion.
The win sends the third-seeded Lions (25-5) to the AAA-San Francisco Section championship game on Friday, where they will take on top seed Lowell, which defeated Balboa 60-42 in the other semifinal matchup Tuesday.
“We were worried about the 12-day layoff,” Washington coach Vince Wong said of the extended break his team had due to the first-round playoff bye the Eagles earned for their second-place finish in the regular-season standings. “We had 12 days off, while Gal played on Friday. I thought we were over it, but we weren’t over it.”
Washington (17-13) led 28-27 at the half, but Galileo took back the lead in the third quarter and opened up its largest advantage of the game at 48-40 midway through the fourth. Galileo junior guard Kim Fung scored six points in the crucial fourth frame and was one of three players to score 17 points in the game, along with teammate Cassidy Chan and Washington senior forward Grace Lui.
The game appeared to be in hand when Galileo led 54-48 with 33 seconds remaining, but the Lions missed two front ends of 1-and-1 free-throw opportunities in the final moments and Washington scored five straight points, capped by a hook shot in the lane, plus a foul, from Lui to cut the lead to a single point with 7 seconds left.
The Eagles immediately fouled Galileo guard Karen Wong on the ensuing inbounds play, but the sophomore didn’t disappoint. Wong sunk both free throws to push the Galileo lead to three points with 5 seconds remaining.
“The reason we won is because we made some plays and Karen hits those two big free throws,” Galileo coach Don Papa said. “She hits them both and they have to come down and take a desperation [shot].”
Washington pushed the ball up the court after Wong’s made free throws and senior forward Karah Butac got an open look at what would have been a game-tying 3-pointer, but the shot at the buzzer hit the back rim and bounced away from the hoop.
“It looked really good and I was thinking overtime,” Papa said of the last shot. “That would have given us problems, because Cassidy [Chan fouled out] and was having a good game.”
Although the Eagles’ loss ended their season, Wong was happy with his team’s effort. Despite the shooting problems in the second half, Washington stayed in the game with 12 second-half offensive rebounds, including eight in the third quarter.
“It was a big-time effort,” Wong said. “We never gave up, but it’s hard when you spot them points in the third quarter. If we match them, we’re sitting right there. We had a chance to tie it at the end because we didn’t give up.”
The Cardinals (25-5) got a game-high 23 points from senior forward Lorna Tu’ufuli, jumped out to a 18-4 lead after the first quarter and led by double digits the rest of the way to advance to their eighth straight AAA-San Francisco Section championship game. Lowell senior forward Taylor Sui added 10 points and Balboa was led by senior guard Chanel Malone, who scored a team-high 18 points.
Justin Wong contributed to this report.