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Apollos survive Aloha scare in opener, win 40-37

Sunset holds Aloha scoreless for the final 3:30 of its Metro opener, holds on for victory
by: JONATHAN HOUSE, DRIVING FORCE — Sunset’s Alyssa Martin drives past Aloha’s Erica Ellerbrook (right) during her team’s 40-37 Metro League win on Tuesday at Aloha High School.

ALOHA - It's likely more a question of 'when' then 'if' the Aloha girls basketball team will win a Metro League game this season.

But, despite having chances, Tuesday's opener against Sunset was not the time as the Apollos hung on for a 40-37 victory after the Warriors went the final 3 minutes, 30 seconds without scoring. Laura Stanulis had Sunset's go-ahead bucket with 1:40 left then added the final points on a layin with 24 seconds remaining to secure the win.

'We're happy with the win but disappointed with the way we played,' said Stanulis, who had a game-high 17 points. 'We didn't have our best practice yesterday and it reflected today. We knew they were better this year. They gave a lot of effort.'

Still, Aloha came up just short.

'We did all we could,' said Warrior sophomore guard Sade Elliott. 'We've come a long way from last year. We just need to keep it together and gain some composure.'

Aloha took a 35-34 lead on freshman forward Brianna Bain's three-point play early in the fourth quarter. Sunset regained the lead on Stanulis' jumper with 4:25 left. Aloha answered back to lead 37-36 when Elliott found senior Erica Ellerbrook for a short jumper high off the glass with 3:30 remaining.

But the Warriors wouldn't score again and the Apollos went back in front on Stanulis' bucket with 1:40 left. Aloha missed on the other end and Sunset got the ball back. With just two fouls, the Warriors had some work to do to put the Apollos in the bonus but didn't foul until 40 seconds later as Sunset passed around the perimeter before calling a timeout with 37 seconds left.

After two fouls and an Aloha timeout, Sunset's Samantha Potter received the inbounds pass and tossed to Anna Johnson, who found Stanulis cutting to the hoop for a layin and 40-37 lead.

'It wasn't really a set play,' Stanulis said. 'I was wide open and Anna saw me so I took it to the hoop. I wouldn't shoot if I was guarded because we were trying to run out the clock.'

Johnson drew a charge on Aloha's ensuing possession, but Sunset threw the ball away, giving the Warriors one more chance. It never came to fruition as Aloha didn't get off a shot and fell to 11-4 on the season.

'We keep improving every year,' said Ellerbrook, who had a team-high 12 points. 'We're way more optimistic and really want it bad. This will give us more motivation. It proves our hard work is paying off.'

For Sunset, who improved to 11-4 overall, the win served as a reminder you can't take a night off in the Metro League.

'I thought we were lackadaisical at the beginning,' Apollos' sophomore wing Alyssa Martin said. 'After the first few minutes, we realized we needed to pick it up or it will be close the whole time.'

Sunset did, but couldn't shake the Warriors. Martin scored six points in the first quarter, working the right baseline for a layin and 11-8 lead. But Elliott tied the game with her second 3-pointer early in the second quarter and Aloha took a 13-11 lead on Ellerbrook's turnaround jumper.

After Ellerbrook drained a right elbow shot, she stole a pass and got the ball to sophomore point guard Heather McFarland, who fired it back to Ellerbrook cutting to the hoop for a layin and 17-13 lead.

'One of our game plans is to play our own tempo,' Ellerbrook said. 'We were able to say with it tonight, getting steals and running, which was nice for a change.'

But Aloha went scoreless the final 4:12 of the second quarter and Sunset went on a 6-0 run capped by Anna Miller's steal under the Apollo basket and give to Stanulis for a layin. Sunset led 19-17 at halftime despite shooting 31 percent (8 of 26) from the floor.

'The energy wasn't there,' Stanulis said. 'The whole team had trouble. Our shots weren't falling.'

That improved in the third quarter but Aloha wasn't about to go away. Stanulis' pull-up jumper gave Sunset a 25-19 lead before the Warriors came back with McFarland rattling in a 3-pointer and Elliott later sending a long pass up court to Ellerbrook for a finger-roll layin to tie the game 28-28.

Aloha took a 32-30 lead on a pair of free throws by Bain and Lindsay Hunt's layin. Sunset drew even two seconds before the third quarter buzzer when post Anna DeMots tossed inside to Martin for a bucket, then regained the lead on Martin's drive past two defenders and layin early in the fourth quarter.

The Warrior battled back before falling in the end.

'We want to be a threat this year,' Elliott said. 'We were doing our plays and setting the tempo. What we did just came up short.'