The first half didn’t go exactly as planned. The visitors from Chicago -- Whitney Young -- with a decided height advantage and a national MaxPreps ranking a couple hundred slots higher than host Eastside College Prep were finding holes in the Eastside zone and opened an 8-point lead at the break.
A casual observer might have thought the Panthers were in trouble.
“I’ve been behind by more than that,’’ Tahaafe said. “It didn’t really faze me. It made the game more of a challenge for me.’’
Tahaafe, who helped lead Eastside to back-to-back Division V state championships, scored 10 of her 18 points in the second half as the Panthers outscored the visitors 37-19 over the final two quarters to pull out a 61-53 victory in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
Tahaafe’s 3-pointer capped a 21-11 run to start the second half and gave Eastside its first lead since the first quarter, 45-43, with 1:48 left in the third quarter. She went 7 of 8 at the foul line in the fourth quarter as Eastside (6-3) pulled away.
“Our experience really kicked in,’’ Tahaafe said. “I told my girls we’re not going to lose. That’s not part of our mindset.This is our tournament, our gym, our team. We were not going to leave this court without a W.’’
Zion Gabriel kept Eastside in it early, scoring eight of her game-high 22 points in the first quarter when Eastside was its own worst enemy, missing its first seven foul shots.
Gabriel, who made a state-championship game record eight 3-pointers and scored 26 points in Eastside’s win over Rolling Hills last March, knocked down five 3-pointers Friday.
After Whitney Young (8-3) took its last lead at 46-45 early in the fourth quarter Gabriel hit a 3-pointer to put Eastside on top.
The Panthers meet Central-Fresno at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Menlo School took control of its 70-59 victory over Eastlake-Chula Vista in overtime to advance to the championship game of the Competitive Division I of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
The Knights (8-0) play nonleague rival Menlo-Atherton (6-4) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Eastside Prep.
The Bears topped St. Mary's Academy-Portland, 43-35, Friday. Greer Hoyem scored 23 points to lead M-A. Carly McLanahan and Ericka Fischer combined for another 15 points.
Mallory North led the Knights with 21 points, Coco Layton added 13, Ally Stuart had 12 and Avery Lee 11.
Sacred Heart Prep downed Aragon 43-35 in Competitive Division II. The Gators (8-2) play Milliken-Long Beach (5-0) for the division title at 3 p.m.