Lynette Johnson finally got to finish a game in the CIF Northern California Regional playoffs, but she was not the closer.
Kennedy's prolific do-it-all junior had fouled out of the Cougars' previous two regional playoff contests, leaving a gritty corps of teammates to finish. During Tuesday night's 44-40 Division I semifinal win over visiting Gunn of Palo Alto, she committed just two fouls.
"I told the team that wasn't going to happen again," Johnson said. "I was embarrassed."
With the score 40-40 with just 10 seconds left, Johnson got the ball on the left wing and dribbled right before cutting into the lane. She attempted a runner and appeared to have been fouled. But the officials, who called a loose game, did not blow a whistle.
In swooped sophomore Jessica Lauderdale, who continued her playoff heroics. She gathered the ball and alertly went up for a shot right into the defender's arms with 4.6 seconds left, drawing a foul.
"I knew based on the way they called the game, Lynette probably wouldn't get that call," Lauderdale said.
Lauderdale made both free throws, and after Gunn's inbound pass went the length of the court untouched, she was fouled on the Cougars' ensuing inbound play with 1.8 seconds remaining. She converted both free throws to ice the game.
"I'm motivated by not wanting to lose," Lauderdale said.
That attitude has permeated the Kennedy squad, which has rolled to seven straight playoff wins after finishing third in the tough Metro Conference. The Cougars (25-8) have beaten bigger, faster foes and, in beating Gunn (21-7), outlasted a team that entered Tuesday having allowed only 57 points in two NorCal playoff games.
Johnson and Lauderdale had 11 points each, and Lori Wong added 10 for Kennedy, which faces Berkeley for the NorCal title at 6 p.m. Saturday at Power Balance Pavilion.
The teams will meet for the fifth time in six years, and for the fourth time in the NorCal playoffs.
Berkeley has won all five games by an average margin of more than 12 points. The teams last met in the 2010 NorCal semifinals, with the Yellow Jackets winning 52-47. Berkeley seeks its fifth NorCal title since 2006.
"It seems like everyone is scratching and clawing their way up the mountain to reach Berkeley," Kennedy coach Dave Parsh said. "We definitely have our work cut out for us."