Imani Mulmore may have done quite a bit of scoring during Thursday’s game against University High, but she wasn’t worried about getting the final basket to win the game.
The senior was more focused on getting a defensive stop to clinch the game, which her Karr (11-5) teammates helped her do to seal a 69-67 win in the first round of the Platinum Bracket for the Sugar Bowl Prep Classic at the Alario Center, snapping the Cubs’ nine-game winning streak.
The Cougars move on to play Cabrini, which defeated Richwood on Thursday, in the second round at 7 p.m. Friday.
“We wanted to play defense at the end of the games because that’s our bread and butter,” said Mulmore, who finished with a game-high 30 points and five rebounds. “We know all the great teams can get that big stop whenever they need it.”
Mulmore made a layup that gave Karr a 67-65 lead with 43 seconds left, and Diamond Emery added a free throw with 26 seconds left to increase its lead to 68-65, but the two-time defending Class 3A champions continued fighting to keep things close.
Destiny Ephrom’s three-point play with 12.8 seconds left cut the U-High (11-7) deficit down to 68-67, but she missed the ensuing free throw that would’ve tied the game.
Karr added a free throw to make the score 69-67 a few seconds later, but U-High failed to convert a last-second shot by Ephrom that would have tied the game at the buzzer.
Ephrom led the Cubs scoring charge with 26 points and six rebounds, while Chelsea Verrett also chipped in 15.
“We just tried to not give up and be relentless,” said Mulmore, a West Florida commitment. “We really came into this game looking to fight and not take any more losses, because we already have five this season.”
After Karr took a 19-17 lead going into the second quarter, both teams went back and forth in a wild second quarter that had five ties and three lead changes.
The Cubs opened the quarter with a 12-4 run that gave U-High its largest lead of the half at 29-23, but Mulmore’s aggressiveness helped the Cougars slowly creep back into the game.
The West Florida commitment had 17 points in the first half and helped Karr reclaim the lead with a 9-1 run, but the Cubs slowed the game down and took a 37-34 lead into halftime.
“I told (Mulmore) before the game that she can shoot, but (Thursday night) was her night to get to the rim,” Karr coach Jessica Barber said. “She is very disciplined and does a great job of head-faking and finding ways to get to the free-throw line.”
Barber said that getting a win against a quality team U-High was important for her team.
“I just think our team deserves a good win,” she said. “University High has an awesome reputation for girls basketball, so to come away with that win was pretty exciting for us.”