Angel McNulty had her most frustrating game of the season through three quarters. She was knocked to the ground repeatedly, was stripped of the ball on three different occasions while driving to the rim and she missed one wide-open layup after another.
"It was pretty bad out there," she said.
It did, however, get much better. In the fourth quarter, the senior leader brushed off her worst offensive game of the season and put Vanguard on her back.
McNulty scored 10 of her 12 points in the final 5 minutes, 40 seconds, Colorado Spring School's Kendra Baucom barely missed a game-tying 3 in the closing moments and the hosting Coursers rallied to beat the Kodiaks 32-29 Saturday night.
Caitlin Bower also scored five of her nine points in the fourth quarter for The Vanguard School (11-1, 2-0 2A Black Forest), which was down by as many as eight points in the first half.
"We just had to stay calm out there. My team helped me stay calm and I tried to help them stay calm as well," McNulty said. "CSS had a really frustrating zone that we couldn't figure out for the longest time. Nothing stayed in the hoop."
Well, practically nothing. Heading into the fourth, McNulty was 1 for 9, and her team was shooting less than 20 percent and had 11 missed layups to that point.
So at the break before the final eight minutes, Coursers coach Larry Blondin admitted that a 25-19 deficit looked enormous.
"It did look pretty big up there with the way their zone was shutting us down," Blondin said. "But we knew we just had to get the ball deeper, and when we did, we started to put in a couple of those gimmes. And Angel led us."
In a 20-second span, McNulty finally found some easy looks and hit back-to-back 5-foot jumpers to cut the lead to 25-23 with 5:20 remaining.
Later, Bower hit a wide-open go-ahead 3 and swished a 14-footer, and McNulty scored six more points under the basket to give Vanguard a 32-29 lead with two minutes to go.
The score stood, but barely. With five seconds left, the gym held its breath as Baucom's 3-point shot hit the left side of the rim and bounced out.
"She maybe it missed by a centi-millimeter of an inch," CSS coach Palmer Johnson said of Baucom's shot, as the senior center not only led the Kodiaks (5-3, 0-1) with eight points but was the driving force behind the team's relentless defense. "I couldn't believe it, but she was great tonight."
Sarah Nelson also added five points in the first half for CSS, but did not return in the second half due to a sprained ankle.