Neuqua Valley jumped out to a quick lead but struggled in the third quarter to give Marian Catholic a 59-51 win and take second place in the "Hoops for the Troops" tournament on Saturday at Oswego. The Spartans took home the first-place trophy.
Kai Moon had 15 points for the Wildcats, and Teniya Page had a game-high 17 for the Spartans.
The Wildcats (10-3) were paced by Najee Smith and Malia Smith, who combined for 11 points to give the Wildcats a 25-17 lead at halftime.
Coming out for the second half, the Spartans put pressure on the Wildcats and outscored them 19-4 in the third quarter. The game's momentum took a turn favoring the Spartans.
"We were a tad rattled by the press," Moon said. "They were really up in your face. Everything happened so fast. I think we kind of got out of our comfort zone and we started to play at their pace instead of ours. That took us out of game mentally a little bit, so we started making mental mistakes. It also made us a little more tired. That was the first time we've actually been pressed like that by any team this season."
With the Spartans (9-2) taking a 36-29 lead after three quarters, the Wildcats tried a valiant comeback.
"In the fourth quarter we came out and played all the way to the very end," said Wildcats coach Mike Williams. "We had three kids fouled out and were still playing like we had our starters in."
The comeback fell short despite the effort by the Wildcats' young guard combination of Moon and Myia Starks.
"They're quick," Williams said. "They can get out there and they're sophomores. They did some did some good things. We had to rush ourselves and try to make something happen. (Marian Catholic) caught us a couple times. But it will be OK."
Spartans coach Dan Murray liked the way his team responded to being down after the first half.
"It was a little bit more the pressure we put on them," said Murray, the former Lisle coach. "(Neuqua Valley) dominated the first half because of how well they played. We talked about increasing the defensive intensity. We went a little more full court extended to try and make them a little more uncomfortable. I thought the girls did a great job of executing that in the second half."