BRANFORD — Despite a furious fourth-quarter rally, Branford girls fell short against the reigning Class 1A state champions.

Trenton held off the host Buccaneers 75-67 on Monday night.

Down 53-34 after three quarters Branford rallied on the strength of Cera McElreath’s 11 points and Kayla Desmartin’s 13 points in the final period. Desmartin finished with a team-high 26, while McElreath finished with 24.

Branford totaled 33 points in the fourth, and despite a furious barrage of 3-pointers, Trenton answered time after time to score 22 in the final period to hang on.

Trailing 60-42, the Bucs caught fire with about five minutes left in the game. McElreath hit two 3s and a 2-pointer to trim the lead to 62-50. Desmartin also came up big, hitting baskets to make it 68-58 Trenton with 2:45 left.

“We tried to work it inside a little more,” Branford coach Carla Suggs said. “But we live and die on 3-pointers because I have those three kids who can shoot it.”

Suggs is referring to McElreath, Kayla Desmartin and her twin sister Kyla Desmartin.

“Tonight we had a hot hand, so we just kept shooting,” McElreath said. “We came back, we knew we had to start getting turnovers and pressed and it worked and the 3s started falling.”

Trenton coach Bryant Frye took the blame for the Tigers allowing all the 3-pointers, especially in the comeback.

“They hit seven 3s in the fourth quarter,” he said. “We’ll work on that and we won’t allow that to happen again.”

The teams don’t play each other again until Jan. 21 in Trenton.

Suggs called the game pretty even and said both teams had plenty of turnovers and mistakes and each had one player foul out.

“It was a hard fought game, they’re the defending champions and eliminated us from regionals last year,” Suggs said. “It’s becoming a big rivalry and it gets heated. But our team came back with a furious rally and never quit.”

Sophomore transfer Jordan Douglas led the Tigers with 27 points, and continually found herself open on fast-breaks to repel the Bucs' rally. Douglas scored eight points in the final period.

Frye said Douglas is “buying into the system, and is very athletic and loves basketball.”

Branford was also hurt by Trenton’s inside tandem of 5-foot-7 forward Samarie McHenry and 5-11 center Janiah King. Both scored 15 points and McHenry pulled down 17 rebounds while King had four blocks.

King also came up big in the fourth with six points, and displayed some fine shooting on turn-around shots from about five or six feet from the basket.

Trenton took advantage of McElreath getting into foul trouble to pull away at halftime. McElreath, Branford’s leading scorer, was benched with three fouls late in the second quarter. She fouled out with 2:45 remaining in the game. Trenton outscored the Bucs 20-8 in the period to extend its lead to 41-26 at halftime.

Jeff Shourds is a sports writer for the Suwannee Democrat, Jasper News and Mayo Free Press.

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