Feb. 3—The Friday night interconference matchup between the Colony and Service High school girls basketball teams in the semifinal round of the annual Lady Lynx Tournament started out as a tightly contested heavyweight bout between two of the top contenders in the state.
Each team took turns trading the lead in the first half with neither leading by more than six points at a given time. The Cougars led 18-17 at the end of the opening quarter and the Knights led 28-27 at halftime.
Using an explosive 22-4 run to open the third quarter, Colony was able to blow past Service and advance to the tournament championship game in a 64-46 victory at Dimond High.
"These girls decided to turn it on in the second half and that's what we did," Colony head coach Chandice Kelly said. "We hammered them on defense and they really got after it. Defense is the difference and what kind of sparks what we do on the offensive end too."
The Knights capitalized on forced and unforced errors by the Cougars that led to debilitating turnovers early in the third quarter. Colony outscored Service 24-6 to take a 52-33 lead into the fourth quarter.
"It was a good back-and-forth battle in the first half and then these girls decided, 'Hey, we're going to squash this right now,' and that's what they did," Kelly said.
Colony junior forward Tonya Karpow earned Player of the Game honors after leading her team with 23 points. She was one of three Knights to reach double figures in scoring.
"It feels good because we definitely needed that one," Karpow said. "We were struggling a little bit yesterday but brought it today."
Service was led in scoring by freshman sensation Aryanna Watson, who tied Karpow with a game-high 23 points, but the bulk of her production came in the first half as she was held to just nine points in the final two quarters.
"We made sure to hone in on her and try to let her not catch the ball at all and made sure we had help defensively," Kelly said. "They followed the game plan that we had, and that is why we were as successful as we were in the second half especially."
Karpow said communication on the floor was key to limiting Watson's impact as well.
"We realized that she's a shooter and made sure we double-teamed," she said. "We made sure we were talking and helping each other on defense."
Their goal is to get better every game and "build toward March because that's when you want to be the best," according to Kelly.
While this season marks Karpow's first with the program after transferring from West, where she was a key starter for the Eagles last year, she grew up in Mat-Su and played with most of her teammates on competitive travel teams.
"Tonya has been a great addition and super helpful on this team," Kelly said. "It's great to have her aboard and I'm excited for the rest of this season with this team."