It was a very physical, chippy game between No. 1 Chandler and No. 4 Red Mountain in the second round of the Division I, Section II girls basketball tournament at Mesquite High School, but the Lions (21-7) walked away with a 54-50 win.
The Wolves were the second-hottest team in Division I behind St. Mary's for the past two months, but struggled in the second half with foul trouble. Starting center Jazmyne Bartee picked up her fourth foul with 3:35 left in the third quarter and sat until halfway through the fourth quarter.
Chandler has been without senior center Je Zhe Newton for the entire season (knee injury), and with the limited play of Bartee, the Mountain Lions took advantage inside. Shea Brown had a game-high 19 points for Red Mountain and also pulled down 13 rebounds.
"That's a quality opponent, it's a good win for us. Our defense stepped up, Simone (Westbrook) is a great player and for the most part we did a good job on her," Red Mountain coach Martin Appel said. "We kept their star players in check and minimized what their other players did."
Westbrook finished with 13 points for Chandler and kept her team in the game down the stretch, but she was also saddled with foul trouble after being called for her fourth with three minutes left in the game.
Chandler coach Zon Thompson was called for a technical foul while arguing a call on the Wolves during a scramble for a loose ball late in the third quarter.
Thompson was visibly upset at the officiating and had little to say after the game. The Wolves however fought to the end and despite trailing by as much as 10 points in the second half, they came back and tied the game on two free throws by Westbrook late in the fourth quarter.
Red Mountain re-claimed the lead on a layup by Brown with 1:20 left in the game. Dezirae Elias (10 points) tied it game again at the free throw line, but Brown put the game away with two baskets in the paint in the final minute.
"Our team came together and we were unified," Brown said. "We used that to our advantage tonight. My teammates did a great job at getting me the ball."
Red Mountain will face Highland on Saturday at 5:45 p.m. in the championship game at Mesquite. It will be the rubber match as the two teams split two previous games.
"It's not like we haven't played them before this year." Appel said referring to facing Highland on Saturday. "Both games have been close and down to the wire, so I wouldn't expect anything different on Saturday."