District girls basketball: King 45, Brandon 41
SEFFNER — King guard Ranyel “Nellie” Hernandez gained a new nickname after Friday night’s Class 7A, District 7 championship game.
“From now on,” King coach Jubie Robinson proclaimed, “we’re calling her, ‘Big Shot Nellie!’”
When the Lions heard the new name they cheered wildly, just like they did moments after they sealed up a 45-41 victory over Brandon — thanks in large part to “Big Shot Nellie,” who is barely 5-feet tall.
It was Hernandez, after all, who in the second half was a perfect 6-for-6 from the field, including 4-for-4 on 3-pointers.
It also was Hernandez who hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with five minutes remaining to give the Lions their first lead of the game, 36-35, a lead they never gave up down the final stretch.
“Every time the ball left my hand I felt like it was going in,” said Hernandez, who scored all of her 16 points in the second half, including eight of the Lions’ final 12 points. “I have to give a lot of credit to my teammates because I know they believe in me, and knowing they believe in me gives me a lot of confidence.”
Brandon, meantime, struggled a bit with it’s shooting touch, according to coach Virgil Johnson.
“These games against King are always like this, coming down to a three or five-point difference, where the team that makes just a few more key shots wins,” Johnson said. “Tonight, King made the shots and we didn’t. (Hernandez) really stepped up for them.”
Besides Hernandez, King was helped with strong inside play from Amaka Eziakonwa (14 points) and guard Jarielee Pares, who finished with 10.
Brandon was led by sophomore Jaylin Spurlin with 24 points.
Brandon (15-8) moves on to play in next week’s region quarterfinal against Sunlake, while King (15-5) will host Springstead.
After Friday night’s game, both Robinson and Johnson said they hoped for a rematch in the region semifinal.
“I think we both have a chance to win (the quarterfinal),” Johnson said. “We would love to play (King) one more time.”