TAMPA — Jefferson sophomore Chantrell Frazier was given the tall task Tuesday night of guarding the bay area's best player in the Dragons' biggest game of the year.
The Dragons forward gave 6 inches to Sickles' 6-foot-4 junior All-America center Amber Henson. And one couldn't help notice the college coaches from two of the nation's top programs — Maryland's Brenda Frese and North Carolina's Sylvia Hatchell — sitting front row, watching Henson.
Frazier marked Henson well, but it was offense where she made her biggest mark, making the go-ahead shot late in the game to help give Jefferson a 48-47 victory over Sickles in a game between unbeaten teams.
"I saw it as an opportunity," Frazier said of guarding Henson. "It was difficult, but in my mind I was thinking, just play defense and keep pushing. She's going to block your shot. You've got to know she's going to do what she does. I wouldn't mind doing it again."
Having beaten Tampa Catholic and now Sickles, the Dragons (11-0) can make an early-season argument as the county's best team, but Jefferson trailed most of the game. The Dragons struggled throughout a first quarter that saw them make just two field goals and trailed by seven at the half.
Laurie Beaty, who scored a game-high 17, hit a 3-pointer at the end of the third to pull Jefferson within three, but it wasn't until 1:04 was left in the game, when Frazier (eight points) converted an offensive rebound, that the Dragons took their first lead, 46-44.
"I don't think we played as well as we should have but we pulled it off," Beaty said. "We had to play defense. Our defense in the first half was horrible. We had to pick it up or else we would have lost."
"Defense won the game for us," said Jefferson coach Tom Mosca, whose team is averaging 12 turnovers a game, "because it wasn't offense. We're so much better ballhandlers and passers than we played tonight. It's to the kids' credit that they hung in there."
After Sickles missed the front end of a one-and-one, Jefferson's Shayla Wilson converted two free throws on the other end to seal the win. Those points were key given the fact that Sickles guard Bre Crum hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Crum and Henson led Sickles (10-1) with 13 each, and Henson had seven blocks.
"It's a great preparation for us because these are the kind of teams we're going to play down the road," Henson said. "We need to learn how to win against these kind of teams. Everybody had to step up."