NEW HAVEN — Ky’Jae Hargrove limped off the court with 2:48 to play, in such pain from injuring her left ankle that she didn’t want anyone to touch it.
But the Career senior had done enough in the first 29-plus minutes of the night as she scored 25 points to lead the Panthers to a 60-51 victory over city rival Hillhouse in the first round of the Southern Connecticut Conference girls’ basketball tournament Thursday night at Career.
Seventh-seeded Career will play second-seeded East Haven in the quarterfinals at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Sheehan in Wallingford.
Hargrove injured her left ankle when she landed on another player underneath the basket and was helped to the Career bench. She spent the remainder of the game with the ankle wrapped with ice on it.
Prior to that, Hargrove was able to penetrate and shoot or get the ball to the wings for Kayla Franklin (10 points) and Ciara Little (16 points) to do more damage than they did Monday night when Hillhouse beat Career, 53-45, in the regular-season finale for both teams.
“We let our emotions get the most of us Monday and we knew we couldn’t do that tonight,” Hargrove said. “Tonight, we played more team basketball and didn’t play with our emotions. We played with our heads.”
Career led wire-to-wire Thursday night, running out to 6-0 and 11-3 leads early in the first quarter. Hillhouse didn’t score for the first 3:33 in the game, but the Academics went on an 11-1 run, with Tanayja London hitting a jumper from the right corner to open the second quarter to pull Hillhouse to 13-12.
It would be the closest Hillhouse would get the rest of the night.
Over the next nine minutes, Career went on a 19-9 run to take a 32-21 lead when Franklin made steal at midcourt and fed Little for the layup. Hillhouse refused to go away as the Academics scored the next nine points to close it back to two.
A 6-0 spurt by Career with Franklin canning a trey from the right made it 38-30 with 1:49 to go in the third quarter.
“We got it to two and they hit the three and got it to five and then eight,” Hillhouse coach Catrina Hawley-Stewart said. “We’d get it to four points and they’d shoot the three and go up seven.”
After that, Career kept the lead at no less than seven points, taking its biggest lead, 60-47, right after Hargrove got hurt.
“We talked about how timid we were last two games against Hillhouse and Sheehan (both losses),” Career coach Steve Bethke said. “We didn’t play well Monday night even though we thought we were the better team. We talked about her being more aggressive tonight.”
Hillhouse, which dropped to 9-12 overall, was disappointed with the loss.
“It’s absolutely disappointing,” Hawley-Stewart said. “It should have been closer and a better battle than what it was.”
But it’s the Panthers who will now get a chance to avenge their worst loss of the year, a 59-25 drubbing by East Haven back on Feb. 1.
“We’ll show up against East Haven on Saturday,” Bethke said.
Career 60, Hillhouse 51
HILLHOUSE10 11 15 15—51
CAREER13 13 18 16—60
Tanayja London 4 0-2 8, Ranasha Frazier 2 0-0 4, Kyzhae Toney 0 4-4 4, Tyree Allen 5 6-9 17, Shaniya Butler 0 0-2 0, Keyshan Moore 4 3-4 14, Justice Austin 2 0-1 4. Totals 17 13-22 51.
Ky’Jae Hargrove 10 5-8 25, Carmen Rosemond 1 1-2 3, Kayla Franklin 2 4-8 10, Ciara Little 4 6-8 16, Kayla Emery 1 0-1 2, Yanliz Santiago 2 0-0 4, Arkaysee Booker 0 0-2 0. Totals 20 16-29 60.
3-point field goals: Hillhouse (Allen, Moore 3), Career (Franklin 2, Little 2).