No matter what Gulliver Prep coach John Zambolla drew up inside the Ransom Everglades Middle School gym on Monday, he had no answer for St. Thomas Aquinas star 6-5 center Mary Katherine Moore.
Class 4A No. 6 Gulliver jumped out to a 22-13 first-quarter lead only to watch Moore spark Aquinas’ 40-37 come-from-behind victory at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Classic with a game-high 17 points, 18 rebounds and three blocked shots.
“Moore killed us,” Zambolla said. “She is 6-4, 6-5. Our biggest kid, who is a freshman, is only 6-2. We went to zone a little bit, but they were still able to get her the ball. At that size, no matter if you’re front her, she is huge.”
Moore’s size and ability to catch lob passes and finish over Gulliver defenders changed the complexion of a game that leaned heavily in Gulliver’s favor early.
Gulliver raced to a 22-13 lead, sparked by Chloe Nixon banking in a shot while being fouled with 20.1 seconds left in the first quarter. Nixon completed the three-point play to cap a 9-0 run to close the first quarter.
But Moore scored 11 first-half points to draw Aquinas within 26-22 at halftime and then came up with timely defensive plays down the stretch to seal the victory.
With the score tied 36-36 and 2:47 left in regulation, Moore blocked Nixon’s shot, leading to Nastolgia Smith racing downcourt for the go-ahead baseline jumper.
Aquinas guard Deneah Ambroise (seven points) converted two free throws with 2:19 left before Moore tied up Carmila Wirshing on a drive to the basket with 1:31 left, preserving the 40-37 lead.
“We played with heart and came together,’’ Moore said. “We didn’t want to lose. We have had a couple close losses. Our last game we lost by one. I don’t think we liked that feeling. So we went out today and made sure it didn’t happen again.”
Mia Bellingherri’s steal with 36 seconds kept the door open for Gulliver to tie the score with a three-pointer. But Nixon’s desperation three-point attempt at the final buzzer fell short, sealing Aquinas’ comeback.
After scoring 22 points in the first quarter, Gulliver was able to muster only 15 points for the rest of the game.
Maji Stjepanovic led Gulliver with 13 points. Nixon added seven points.
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Hallandale vs. Cardinal Gibbons (Home), 7:30
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Douglas vs. Fort Lauderdale (Home), 7:00
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Coral Glades vs. Boyd Anderson (Boyd Anderson), 5:30
Cardinal Gibbons vs. St. Thomas Aquinas (St. Thomas Aquinas), 5:30
Coconut Creek vs. South Broward (South Broward), 5:00
West Broward vs. Cooper City (Cooper City), 5:00
Dillard vs. Archbishop McCarthy (McCarthy), 5:00
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Everglades vs. Flanagan (Flanagan), 5:00
Stranahan vs. Hallandale (Hallandale), 6:00
Western vs. Pompano Beach (Pompano Beach), 6:00
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Plantation vs. Coral Springs (Home), 7:00
Douglas vs. Cypress Bay (Home), 7:00
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Hollywood Hills vs. Miramar (Miramar), 7:30
Nova vs. Taravella (Taravella), 7:30
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Archbishop Curley vs. Sagemont (Sagemont), 5:30
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Gulliver Prep vs. Pine Crest (Pine Crest), 7:30
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Cardinal Gibbons vs. Dillard (Dillard), 5:00
Monarch vs. Cooper City (Cooper City), 7:30
Coral Glades vs. Northeast (Northeast), 6:00
Coral Springs vs. Plantation (Plantation), 5:30
Cypress Bay vs. Douglas (Home), 5:00
Pembroke Pines Charter vs. Deerfield Beach (Deerfield Beach), 5:00
Miramar vs. Hollywood Hills (Home), 5:00
Pompano Beach vs. Taravella (Taravella), 5:30