Palo Verde’s girls basketball team has been searching for a leader to replace graduated star Hayley Henderson.
The Panthers may have found one in sophomore shooting guard Jasmin Kiley.
Kiley scored 23 points Friday, including sinking 5-of-6 free throws in the final two minutes, to lead Palo Verde to a 52-46 Northwest League win over visiting Legacy.
“We really have lacked a vocal leader since Hayley left us,” Panthers coach Phil Clarke said. “Jasmin played for our varsity team as a freshmen and she’s becoming our top scorer already as a sophomore starter.”
Palo Verde (7-3, 5-1 Northwest) looked lethargic in the first half, and trailed 25-20 at the break.
“We just were very sluggish to start the game and their bigs were killing us inside,” Clarke said. “I normally wouldn’t approve of switching to a zone after playing man defense all first half, but I felt the change was needed.”
The Panthers used the zone defense and a fullcourt press to start the third quarter on a 10-0 run, highlighted by four points from Palo Verde’s other sophomore starter, forward Lily Tapusoa, and two 3-pointers from Kiley.
Tapusoa scored six points in the third quarter and Kiley had nine, to give the Panthers a 39-35 lead at the start of the fourth quarter.
“My shot really wasn’t falling,” Kiley said. “After I hit the first 3-pointer, I thought, ‘Ok, I’m ready for the next one,’ and then I hit the next two and it was a piece of cake.”
Kiley realizes that she and Tapusoa have given Palo Verde a formidable inside-outside duo.
“Lily is always tough on the boards,” Kiley said. “She always posts-up and boxes-out really well.”
Mickayla Hicks scored 10 points for the Longhorns in the first half, but was held scoreless in the second half.
Legacy (9-7, 4-1) made a late run and tied the game 40-40 with five minutes left after a layup by Shakita Cox, who finished with 10 points.
Kiley answered with a deep 3-pointer from the right wing with 2:37 left to give the Panthers their final lead.
“It feels really good to earn a tough conference win,” Clarke said. “We are progressing nicely after having beaten two tough conference rivals and knowing that we next face a huge challenge.”