NORTH HOLLYWOOD -- Harvard-Westlake’s Skylar Tsutsui hit two free throws with 5.3 seconds left to give her team a 61-59 win over Bell-Jeff in the second round of the girls Southern California State Division IV Regionals on Thursday night.
"I was so nervous," Tsutsui said. "I was taking deep breaths, trying to take my mind off things."
She said her legs were cramping and her coach could see she was getting tired. One of her teammates told her to relax as much as possible.
"Everyone’s going to remember those two shots," said Harvard-Westlake’s Nicole Hung. "She really rose to the occasion and handled the pressure exceptionally well."
Tsutsui finished with 10 points. She was 0 for 3 from the field in the fourth quarter, but she came through in the end at the free-throw line.
Bell-Jeff trailed for most of the game. Down 59-56 with 1:23 to play in the fourth quarter, Layana White made one of two free throws to cut Harvard-Westlake’s lead to two.
She tied the score, 59-59, with under a minute to play, cutting through the lane and making a layup. On the ensuing play, Tsutsui was fouled chasing down a loose ball putting her on the free-throw line with 5.3 seconds left.
Both teams took timeouts giving Tsutsui plenty of time to think about her next two shots.
"I was telling her to use her legs," said Hung, who scored a game-high 21 points. "Relax as much as you possibly can."
Relaxation was the furthest thing from Tsutsui’s mind. Determination, however, was at the forefront.
White finished with a team-high 16 points for Bell-Jeff. Teammate Jasmine Smith scored 12 points and fouled out midway through the fourth quarter.
"The fact is the kids kept believing in each other," Bell-Jeff coach Bryan Camacho said, "and came through and made some big shots."
It was the third time this season Harvard-Westlake, the top-seeded team in Division IV, has defeated Bell-Jeff.
"I think this one was way more intense," Tsutsui said. "I felt this game was way different."
Harvard-Westlake led 34-29 at halftime. Bell-Jeff’s White led all scorers with 12 points. Harvard-Westlake’s Hung had a team-high nine points.
Harvard-Westlake led by 10 points with 6:17 to play in the second quarter, its biggest lead of the game. Hung made two free throws to give her team a 26-16 lead.
Bell-Jeff closed the gap to three with 1:04 to play in the second quarter on a pair of free throws by Averie-Alice Guzman.
Sydney Haydel scored five points in the first quarter to help Harvard-Westlake build a 22-14 lead. Nicole Nesbit scored seven points in the first half for Harvard-Westlake.