Karr coach Jessica Barber likes to joke that her team isn’t used to winning.
If that’s the case, the Cougars may have just figured out the formula.
Karr overcame what was once a 13-point deficit to mount a late comeback and edge John Curtis 59-57 on the road in a nondistrict game Thursday night.
The Cougars (14-6) clawed their way back thanks to a stingy defense and an offense that came through when it counted the most.
“We’ve been struggling to find ourselves, but we keep saying to keep playing hard,” Barber said. “I kind of like when we play from behind sometimes because some time we may be in this situation down the road in the playoffs, and we can say that we have been here before and we fought back.”
Curtis raced out to a convincing lead early, outscoring the visitors 15-4 in the opening quarter.
Karr managed just two field goals in the first eight minutes, while the Patriots (14-9) countered with balanced scoring.
“They’re young, but they play hard and they make a lot of shots,” Barber said of Curtis. “They do not miss wide-open shots. I told the team, ‘You cannot put our hands down because they’ll hit those shots.’ We lost sight of it, but I was proud that we fought back.”
Karr’s deficit grew to 13 early in the second quarter before the offense exploded for 23 points. Imani Mulmore and Zharian Maxmillion led the charge, attacking Curtis with a strong inside-outside presence.
The Cougars closed within seven points at halftime and five after three quarters. With 4:24 remaining, Jakwann Ross’s bucket gave Karr its first lead.
Karr and Curtis exchanged leads three times in the fourth quarter, with the last coming when Karr’s Paige Williams hit a jumper with 3:10 to play.
Karr held Curtis to 1-of-9 shooting from the field in the final quarter. Mulmore and Maxmillion sank free throws in the waning minutes to give the Cougars a two-point advantage with 2.5 seconds to go.
On Curtis’ last possession, Williams stole an inbounds pass, securing the Karr victory with yet another defensive play.
“We made some huge shots when it counted,” Barber said. “We gave it back a few times, but in a timeout, I told them, ‘You don’t have to hit a home run. Get a steal and worry about offense later.’ ”
“We haven’t played defense like that all year,” she added.
Mulmore led Karr with 21 points, five rebounds and two assists. Maxmillion finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds, her third consecutive double-double.
For Curtis, Dynah Jones led the way with 15 points, six boards and four assists. Dajha Virgil added 14 points, and Abryhia Irons had 13.
Patriots coach Barbara Farris wasn’t pleased with the loss but content with her team’s effort.
“We made some unfortunate turnovers. They were a little stronger, more aggressive — what you’re supposed to do when you’re fighting on someone else’s court,” Farris said.
“We played hard, executed and they listened. If we put a few more baskets in, a few more rebounds and less turnovers we gave them, maybe it’s a different outcome.”