Despite surrendering a 15-point second-half lead, the Okkodo High School Bulldogs girls’ basketball team gutted out an overtime win against the Academy of Our Lady of Guam Cougars.
On Saturday night, on the Cougars' home-court in Hagåtña, Okkodo defeated Academy, 55-53.
Heading into the interdivisional matchup, both teams had only one loss - handed to them by the two-time defending champion Saint Paul Christian School Warriors.
Okkodo, with the win, improves to 9-1 in the Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam. Academy, with their second loss of the 2019-2020 season, drops to 8-2.
The Cougars, heading into overtime, had fought back from a double-digit deficit. But, in the 4-minute extra period, the Bulldogs Vanezza Gustilo emerged as the team’s leader.
“I feel really proud of my team at the moment,” Gustilo said. “Without any one of us, this game wouldn’t have been won. All of us are very important.”
In OT, with a 2-point lead, Okkodo’s Angeli Dacanay grabbed an offensive rebound, made a shot under the basket, and drew a foul. Dacanay, with a 10-point performance and making her presence felt while rebounding on both ends of the floor, created several second-chance opportunities.
“Even though my team misses, I know we can get it back the second time around,” Dacanay said.
Academy, plagued with turnovers, had a ball stripped in overtime. On their next possession, they lost the ball again.
Causing the turnover that led to Dacanay’s overtime bucket, Okkodo’s Amaiya Fontanilla’s defense was impenetrable.
Gustilo, leading the charge, increased the lead to 6 points, with a layup.
“I give all of the credit to our coach,” Gustilo said. “She taught us to play team-ball.”
Academy, trailing by half-a-dozen, wasn’t done.
For nearly the entire 36-minutes, Academy’s crowd was quiet. But after the Cougars’ Oriana Sevilla popped a 3-pointer, the home-team fans came to life. Sevilla, finishing with a co-game-high 13 points, started a late Cougars’ rally.
The Cougars, with 24.5 left in OT and trailing by 3 points, trimmed the deficit to a single point. Cori-Nicole Paulino, after stealing a pass, made a fast break layup.
Dacanay, with 2.9 seconds remaining, grabbed a defensive rebound and drew the foul. A missed free throw gave the Cougars life, but they were under their own basket. With the entire floor to the Bulldogs’ basket, a Hail Mary was the only option.
A launched hook shot smacked high off the backboard.
In the first quarter, after a slow start, both teams found their rhythm from beyond-the-arc. Academy, with three different shooters draining from deep, started to connect.
With neither team holding onto a lead for long, Fontanilla and Dacanay closed the quarter strong. The Okkodo pair, with back-to-back buckets, elevated their lead to 15-11.
Gustilo, carrying the momentum through to the second quarter, opened the frame with a 3-point shot. The Bulldogs’ Erin Moldez, after stealing a ball from an Academy guard, dribbled coast-to-coast for an uncontested fast break bucket.
Despite being held scoreless for 4:48 in the period, the Cougars’ defense kept them in the game. Academy’s Annika Almario, with a 3-pointer, chipped away at the Bulldogs’ lead. Almario, nailing a long-range two-point jump shot, pulled the Cougars within seven points.
In the third quarter, with staunch defense and unselfish offense, the Bulldogs distanced themselves.
The Bulldogs’ Raquel Camacho, who led the team with a game-high 14 points, also played courageous defense. Midway through the period, Camacho stole the ball and converted a fast break layup for the 15-point lead. But against the Cougars, on their home floor, no lead is safe.
“To be honest, we were not as focused as we were supposed to be,” Gustilo said.
Academy’s Alura Hernandez, draining a long 2-pointer from the top of the key, pulled the Cougars within 10 points.
Early in the final eight minutes of regulation, both teams struggled on offense. The Cougars’ Myka Terlaje, scoring the first basket, made a leaning hook shot and drew the foul. After draining the free throw, the Cougars trailed by 7 points.
With Academy’s defense wearing down the Bulldogs, a frustrated Okkodo bench received a technical.
The Cougars’ Maria Taitano, tasked with shooting the freebies, drained both.
Taitano, with a co-game-high 13 points, scored another basket to bring the team within 5 points, 45-40.
Hernandez, with 4:20 left in regulation, made a steal and a layup. Drawing a foul, she tied the game, 45-45.
For the Bulldogs, turnovers mounted.
Paulino, with a steal and a fast break layup, gave the Cougars their first lead since early in the first quarter.
Camacho, with a 3-point shot, quieted the crowd.
Trailing by one point, 48-47, converting 1 -of- 2 from the line, Taitano forced overtime.
“I just felt that we were nervous, and we got a little crazy out there,” Dacanay said. “But, we still managed to pick it back up.”