A seven-foot shot at the buzzer by North Hollywood High forward Nikki O'Neil bounced once, twice, and finally a third time before it caromed off the rim, thereby triggering a strangely improvised slam dance among Reseda fans.
They met at halfcourt, careening into one other as if to relieve the tension of watching the tumultuous fourth quarter of Reseda's 53-52 West Valley League win Wednesday at home. The teams that tangled 10 months ago for the City Section 3-A Division championship traded leads six times in the last three minutes.
Meanwhile, the North Hollywood players and fans were thrust into immediate silence. The Huskies had played on a wave of emotion, wiping out half of a 12-point, halftime deficit in the third quarter and the rest in the fourth.
But with 12 seconds to play and Reseda trailing, 52-51, Regent center Sharlene Cirrito stared disaster in the face and didn't quiver. Cirrito, who finished with a team-high 15 points, was sandwiched between two defenders when she took a pass on the right baseline and banked in an off-balance, 12-footer for what proved to be the final points.
Cirrito was at a loss for words in describing the unlikely shot, which extended the second-ranked Regents' winning streak to 12 and kept them atop the West Valley League standings with a two-game lead over North Hollywood (10-4, 4-2).
"I can't even remember what happened," said Cirrito, who also had 12 rebounds. "I just remember hoping that it went in."
When it did, North Hollywood guard Leticia Carranza immediately raced the ball upcourt and threw up a wild, 22-foot shot that O'Neil grabbed, shot and barely missed as time expired.
Reseda (13-1, 6-0) committed 21 turnovers, often handling the ball as if it was ticking. Many of the turnovers occurred in the fourth quarter when North Hollywood went on runs of 8-2 and 6-0.
Reseda Coach Andrea Francola thought North Hollywood turned the game around with strong rebounding. Reseda outrebounded the Huskies, 24-15, in the first half before North Hollywood turned it around, 25-16, in the second half.
"They came out really fired up and dominated the boards," Francola said. "We never let down. We respect them too much to do that."
North Hollywood shot 42% in the second half compared to 28% in the first. Reseda shot 41% for the game but only 33% in the second half.
With Michelle Cabaldon, North Hollywood's leading scorer, mired in a 3-for-14 shooting slump, Sandrine Rocher came through with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Carranza scored 13 points--8 in the fourth quarter--and added 7 assists. Cabaldon scored all 10 of her points in the second half.