St. John the Baptist's Jen Gaffney shoots the winning layup...

St. John the Baptist's Jen Gaffney shoots the winning layup against St. John's Prep during a CHSAA Class A girls basketball semifinal game on Friday, March 8, 2019. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

With the St. John the Baptist girls basketball team trailing by one point with 14 seconds left in Friday night’s CHSAA Class A state semifinal, Jen Gaffney had perfect execution.

Gaffney inbounded the ball to Abby Gress, who delivered a quick touch pass to Gaffney, who was streaking from out of bounds. Gaffney dribbled three times to get around her defender and scored with 10.1 seconds remaining.

The basket gave St. John the Baptist a 46-45 win over St. John’s Prep at Holy Trinity. SJB will play in Saturday’s CHSAA Class A final against Cardinal Spellman at 5 p.m. at Fordham.

“All I was thinking about was, ‘I need to get it in,’  ” said Gaffney, who had 13 points and battled foul trouble during the second half.

SJB coach Kate Gordon recognized that Gaffney would have an easier path to the basket at the last moment and relayed that to her junior guard. With point guard Cara McCormack double-teamed behind the play, Gaffney, the inbounder, was open to receive a pass if the Cougars executed the play quickly.

They did.

“We knew they weren’t going to guard her,” Gordon said. “They were doubling Cara, so in the last second I said to Jen, ‘You get it right back and take it one-on-one.’ My coaching staff said it was the best option, and we had to agree.”

After the basket, Prep inbounded the ball from the baseline and sprinted up the court. It missed a look off the glass, and Katie Maguire pounced on the loose ball. She got tied up for a jump ball, and possession was awarded to SJB.

SJB (13-8) led 30-21 at halftime, but that lead shrunk to 37-34 by the end of a third quarter in which the Cougars started 0-for-7 from the foul line. That streak ended when McCormack (17 points) made one of two attempts with 3:38 left in the period for a 31-24 lead. SJB shot 4-for-12 from the stripe in the third quarter.

Gress’ three-pointer from the left wing with 3:35 left gave the Cougars a 44-39 lead. Prep then scored the next six points.

Yamila Emanuel’s putback with 14 seconds made it 45-44, setting the stage for Gaffney. She delivered, advancing SJB to its first state final since 2007-08.

Said Gordon: “We knew that Jen was ready to put the game on her shoulders and do it.”

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