Down three points with 15 seconds left in the game, junior guard Jacki Gemelos made the kind of decision that keeps coaches up at night.
Rather than work the ball around for an easier shot, she launched — and drained — a contested 28-foot three-pointer. After a tense final seconds that saw the teams combine for three turnovers, the game went into overtime deadlocked at 53.
“We have a lot of confidence in Jacki’s ability to score,” said USC coach Michael Cooper. “She is one of her best shooters from that type of range. It was a great shot.”
In the extra period, the teams matched each other basket for basket until Gemelos pulled up for another three, this one from much closer, to give the Women of Troy a 62-59 lead they would not relinquish.
“It’s a testament to this team that they were able to pull it together and get the win,” Cooper said.
Junior guard Briana Gilbreath blocked a layup attempt in the final minute to seal the 65-61 victory for USC on senior day.
“I wish it hadn’t been that close but it was a great win and a great game,” said senior center Kari LaPlante. “Hopefully we can keep this momentum for [the Pac-10 tournament].”
Emotions ran high for the Women of Troy during a pregame tribute to its two graduating seniors, LaPlante and forward Michelle Franco.
None of that emotion was present in the opening minutes for USC, however. Seeming content to launch contested jumpers, the Women of Troy came out flat and found themselves in an early 7-2 hole.
But USC, led by LaPlante and Franco, clawed back into the game, passing up outside shots in favor of post opportunities. An offensive rebound turned into a three-point play for Franco, and LaPlante beat her defender off the dribble for a layup.
Gilbreath capped a frustrating first half by picking up a late technical foul. USC’s leading scorer missed all eight of her field goal attempts in the first half and finished the game with 12 points on just 3-for-17 from the field.
Gilbreath did collect 10 rebounds and six assists in the game.
Gemelos and freshman forward Cassie Harberts paced USC in the first half with eight and seven points, respectively. Gemelos’ layup just before the halftime buzzer gave the Women of Troy a 28-20 lead going into the break.
Up 37-22 early in the second half, USC was seemingly on its way to a comfortable victory before sloppy play and poor shooting allowed the Huskies to end regulation on a 31-16 run.
With younger, less inexperienced players inserted into the lineup, USC struggled.
“Call [the run] a coach’s decision,” Cooper said. “We wanted to get some kids some playing time at home. The momentum was going our way. If I had to do it over again I’d probably do it a little bit at a time instead of all at once.”
Gemelos led the Women of Troy with 15 points, including four three-pointers, and started at point guard in place of junior guard Ashley Corral, who was suspended two games for violating team rules.
In their final home games, LaPlante and Franco added eight and three points, respectively. As a team, the Women of Troy shot just 33 percent but made 17 of their 30 free throw attempts.