CAMDEN — As Alexis Reid took her spot on the edge of the paint, two girls from Howard towered over her on each side.
Yet when the ball bounced out on a missed free throw attempt, it was Reid, the girl who says she’s 5-foot-1, maybe 5-foot-2 tops, who grabbed the rebound.
Reid’s clutch rebound in the final minute and two resulting free throws keyed Caesar Rodney High’s 54-51 victory over Howard on Thursday night in the second round of the DIAA girls’ basketball tournament.
“She is heart from the top of her head to the bottom of her feet,” said CR coach Bill Victory. “She is just all heart. ... I’ll put my money on her every time.”
The seventh-seeded Riders advance to Saturday’s quarterfinals at the Bob Carpenter Center. They will face No. 18 Conrad, who pulled off a stunning upset against second seed St. Elizabeth, at 3:30 p.m.
It’s the first time the Caesar Rodney girls have made the quarterfinals since 2010.
The win was extra special for the Riders (17-5) considering they lost out on the Henlopen Conference Northern Division title with a late season loss to Sussex Central and another defeat to the Golden Knights in a tiebreaker to crown the Henlopen North champion.
“It was disappointing when we didn’t win the Henlopen,” Reid said. “We worked so hard during the season and weren’t rewarded. I feel like playing at ‘the Bob’ is very rewarding.”
Despite being up by as much as 14 in the second half, Caesar Rodney had to come from behind at the very end.
Howard, seeded 10th, took the lead, 50-48, on Ronnasia Blatch-Higgins’ layup. When Kyla Rouse knocked down one of two free throws, it gave Howard a three-point advantage with 2:01 left.
Alissa Haith nailed a pull-up jumper in the lane to bring CR within one and Howard turned the ball over due to a three-second violation on the next possession.
Jordan Moseley then buried a baseline jumper to put the Riders back on top. The Wildcats gave CR back possession by throwing the ball out of bounds which set the stage for Reid’s heroics.
The Riders missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity and the ball rimmed out toward the right sideline. Reid spun to her right where the sophomore was able to corral the loose ball in front of two of Howard’s frontcourt players.
“I don’t think they were expecting it cause I’m so short,” Reid said. “Coach always tells us to box out and I boxed out until I could turn around and get it.”
Howard had success all night with its size, winning the rebounding battle and scoring 38 of its 51 points on layups or shots from the low block. But Reid snared the most important rebound of the contest.
“They’re huge,” Victory said. “I don’t even have that many big kids in my whole school and they come out there six or seven deep with kids over 5-foot-10. We knew that was going to be an issue, we just tried to make it up so our little kids could get some more opportunities. We knew we’d get run off the boards, the tradeoff was if we could steal enough and get enough opportunities down the floor.”
Haith paced CR with 13 points while Reid chipped in 12 of her own.
After Reid’s two free throws Howard had a couple of chances to win it. The Wildcats turned it over on their first try thanks to an inbounds violation and weren’t able to get a three-point attempt off on their final possession.
“I knew that’s what we needed to finally know we had it,” Reid said of the free throws. “We work on foul shots a lot at practice so I just acted like I was at practice so I wasn’t so stressed out about it.”