For over 30 minutes of game time on Tuesday, Homestead guard Cali Casaburo watched the epic battle between the Spartans and third-ranked South Side from the bench.
Then, late in the contest, attrition hit the Homestead roster as first one, then two, then three players fouled out.
Casaburo found herself thrust into the lineup after Savannah Buck picked up her fifth foul.
“I was scared to go in,” Casaburo said. “I went in and was like, 'Crap.'”
With the Spartans down one with 55 seconds to go, Casaburo got the ball and, without thinking too much about it, threw up a three-pointer.
It went in.
“After I shot it, I was confident, but not at first,” Casaburo said.
Just 30 seconds later with the game tied, Casaburo shot another three.
Casaburo's two late three-pointers, her only two shots of the game, proved pivotal in Homestead''s 81-80 victory over previously undefeated South Side.
“Cali played some quarters in the junior varsity game so she got warmed up then had to sit down for a while,” Homestead coach Rod Parker said. “To be able to come in like that, be in the game for 10 seconds and hit a shot with us down one, then hit another one … I am really proud of her.”
South Side (5-1) would cut it to one again with 17 seconds left, but a pair of free throws by Sydney Buck put the Spartans back up three. The Archers then turned the ball over on the in-bounds play by stepping over the end line and Homestead hit a free throw to go up four.
A three-pointer at the buzzer by the Archers trimmed the lead to one, but it was too late.
The Spartans pulled off the huge win without a single senior on the floor. Emily Bley once again sat out nursing her ACL injury. After playing limited minutes against New Haven last week, Parker felt it was wise to rest the senior against the Archers.
“We knew this game would be physical,” Parker said. “Knowing Emily, she would push herself beyond what the knee was ready for.”
Homestead (6-1) appeared well on its way to routing the Archers even without Bley, hitting 10-of-12 shots in the first quarter to open up a 14-point lead.
The advantage would swell to as many as 17 points before South Side's pressure defense and Simmons' scoring and rebounding prowess brought the Archers back in the second half.
Leading the way was sophomore Josie Fisher, who finished with 31 points, 10 rebounds and six assists to lead the Spartans.
“Josie just played absolutely great,” Parker said. “Along with Simmons, those two were the best players on the floor. Everything we did this week that we thought we had to do to beat South Side centered around Josie because she is such a playmaker.”
The Archers struggled from the field in the first half and with turnovers. Simmons was held to just six first-half points, but turned it on after the break and finished with 28 to lead South Side.
But in the end, it was a young reserve who stole the show.
“To go into a game like that and without hesitation pull off two big shots for us is great,” Parker said about Casaburo. “We always talk about your opportunity, it may come setting a screen, it may be hitting a free throw or it may be hitting a big shot.
“She got her opportunity (Tuesday) and took advantage of it.”