Time was running out on Stacy Parson.
The Kennedy High School senior guard was having yet another forgettable performance in a crucial game. She disappeared into the dressing room at halftime with just five points.
But Parson purged the sour memories of playoffs past, exploding for 18 points in the second half to lead Kennedy to a 61-52 victory over Washington in the City 4-A final Friday night at the Sports Arena.
"I knew I had to get with it," Parson, who was named the playoffs' most outstanding player, said of her halftime thoughts.
The win gave Kennedy its first City title since 1981 and qualified the Golden Cougars for next week's state tournament.
By her own admission, Parson, an all-City selection last season, had not played well in last week's semifinal or in a loss to Locke in last year's final.
When she made just two of seven shots in the first half and Kennedy was fortunate to be tied at 23-23, Parson's last chance at a City title appeared to be slipping away.
Kennedy was sluggish at the start, falling behind, 12-6. Coach Craig Raub pulled Parson from the game with 1:40 left in the first quarter. She returned to hit a 17-foot jumper with seven seconds left to make it, 12-8, at the end of the period.
"I pulled Stacy out so she could relax and take a look from the bench," Raub said. "I wanted her to see the floor the way I see it from the bench."
Washington scored the first three points of the third period, but Parson countered with two free throws. After a three-foot hook shot by Washington's Natasha Norris, forward Diane DeCree scored five straight points to give Kennedy only its second lead of the game.
Parson made two more free throws and a layup after receiving a crisp pass from Wyndee Bailey to stretch the lead to 34-28, and the advantage grew steadily from that point.
"No girl in the City can handle Stacy Parson," Raub said. "And once DeCree got active inside, it was clear we were the better team."
Washington forward Daynell Brown was effective early in the game, but was called for her third foul with 3:44 left in the first half. Brown, who had 12 points, picked up a fourth foul midway through the third period, about the time Kennedy took a commanding lead.
"They had the advantage inside and it showed," Washington Coach Phil Chase said. "It really hurt our continuity on offense when Daynell went out."
Kennedy outrebounded Washington, 54-28. DeCree had 17 points and 15 rebounds and Parson had 10 rebounds. The Golden Cougars made 19 of 24 free throws and grabbed rebounds after four of the misses.
After the Generals cut Kennedy's lead to six early in the fourth period, Parson made a 10-footer from the baseline and hit the first of two free throws the next time down the floor. Shelley Mercer rebounded the miss and passed to DeCree, who scored to boost the lead to 45-34.
Mercer had eight rebounds and Bailey added seven rebounds and 14 points.
Demetra Johnson led Washington with 16 points and Ayesha Brooks had 13 points and nine rebounds. Johnson and Brooks were named to the all-tournament team.
Brooks, who went one-on-one with Parson much of the game, made only 5 of 17 field goal attempts, however.
Said Brooks: "We had to go out of our game to play them. Their inside defense put pressure on our perimeter shooters and that's not our game."
Washington finished with a record of 22-5.
"I'm on cloud nine," said DeCree, who was also named to the all-tournament team. "We decided at halftime to roll up our sleeves and win this thing."
Added Parson: "After three years, we finally got it."
Raub handed out trophies at midcourt, then reflected on what the title meant to his team.
"The last three trophies I passed out were to Stacy, Nina Groom and Wyndee Bailey," he said. "They're the seniors who have been through three years of varsity.
"I just looked in their faces and flashed on how happy they must be."