East County Sports

MVP Cooley helps Comets defend Coast Classic title

By Nick Pellegrino
East County Sports staff writer

COSTA MESA (12-20-2018) – In a classic match-up between state-ranked ballclubs, Palomar College guard Imari Cooley sank a pair of foul shots with five seconds remaining, then a three-point shot at the buzzer by El Camino fell short, as the 8th-ranked Comets defended their Erin Tomlinson Coast Christmas Classic championship by edging No. 12 El Camino, 60-57, Wednesday (Dec. 19) at Basil Peterson Gymnasium at Orange Coast College.

Cooley, a freshman out of Vista Murrieta, took charge over the final two minutes to aid Palomar’s case to continue climbing in the state rankings.

Cooley was named the event’s most valuable player after scoring a game-best 22 points, based on 7-for-8 shooting from the floor, plus 8-for-10 at the foul line. Included were 10 of Palomar’s 14 points in the fourth period to fend off El Camino’s comeback effort.

Cooley also grabbed 14 rebounds, plus had 3 steals and a pair of blocked shots.

Other Comets on the all-tournament team were Taylor Williams (Mira Mesa) and Clarissa Taite (also Mira Mesa).

“It was a gritty game that went back and forth and was sloppy at times, but I am proud of them because we found a way to get it done in a championship setting,” said Palomar coach Leigh Marshall.

Palomar led most of the way before falling behind 54-53 with just under two minutes remaining.

Then Cooley took charge from off the bench.

The guard worked her way inside to grab an offensive rebound and scored while being fouled on the putback with 1:27 left. The free throw allowed the Comets to re-claim the lead, 56-54.

On the next pair of El Camino possession, Cooley first blocked a Warriors shot, then she stole the basketball, getting fouled with 27 seconds to go, making both free throws for a 58-54 advantage.

El Camino answered with a layin, then played the foul game, as Palomar missed two shots. And when the Comets then fouled an El Camino player, the chance to tie went gone by the wayside as the second shot was missed.
The Warriors fouled again, but Cooley cooly came through in the clutch at the foul line.

For the Comets (12-3), Dee Dee Valenzuela (San Marcos) added  12 points and 6 rebounds, while Mackenna Gentry (Mt. Carmel) had 9 points and 3 assists.

El Camino (10-4) overcame an 8-point deficit in the final period to briefly take the lead before falling. The Warriors received a double-double by Galihah Bey (17 points, 11 boards) to also be named all-tournament, along with teammate Erika Carson (11 boards), who averaged 10 boards/game in the event.

Spartan Coast Classic
At MiraCosta College, Crosswoods Gymnasium
Imperial Valley 52, Porterville 45
: Tied at 34-all through three periods, the Arabs out-scored the Pirates, 18-11, over the final 10 minutes to capture this game in Wednesday’s (Dec. 19) final round-robin contest.  Imperial Valley (5-7) went 2-1 to finish in second place.
MiraCosta failed to report any details to the other contests.

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