WINTHROP — The first game of Kena Souza’s basketball doubleheader was a nightmare. The Winthrop guard played in the evening JV game before the varsity contest and couldn’t make a shot, watching one attempt after another drift away from the basket and clang harmlessly off the rim.

Souza couldn’t dwell on it long, as she was due to play in the Ramblers’ varsity game with Oak Hill, too. But the freshman couldn’t shake her concern that her touch had iced over for the entire night.

“I was really worried,” she said. “They just weren’t falling.”

Those shots fell soon enough, and right when the Ramblers needed them most. Souza scored 10 points in a two-minute burst at the end of the third quarter, leading Winthrop out of a nine-point hole and over Oak Hill, 41-35, in Mountain Valley Conference action.

“Our girls really wanted it,” said Winthrop coach Judy Auclair, filling in for head coach Joe Burnham, who was expecting a child. “We did it before in other games. We’ve just got to keep patience, we’ve got to play as a team. We can’t rush everything, which we were doing first half. Slow it down, get composed, and if Kena is hot, keep giving her the ball.”

Those first half struggles — Winthrop (7-5) made four shots and turned the ball over 16 times — lingered into the third quarter, as Oak Hill (5-8) appeared to be pulling away with a 23-14 lead with less than three minutes to go.

And then everything changed, with the freshman playing her seventh quarter of basketball of the night leading the way. Souza hit a 3-pointer with 2:06 to go in the quarter. She followed with a baseline jumper, and then another jumper in transition after an Oak Hill miss. Aaliyah Wilson-Falcone hit a three on the Ramblers’ next trip down, and Souza capped the flurry she started with a 3-pointer with three seconds left.

Suddenly, the team that shot 4-for-20 in the first half was polishing off a 6-for-11 effort in the third quarter, and carrying a 28-25 lead into the fourth quarter as a result.

“It’s really exciting,” Souza said of the scoring spree. “Our team got pumped up in the locker room, so we came out ready to play in the second half.”

“She played in the JV game and she couldn’t hit anything. She probably took 16 shots,” Auclair said. “But when her rhythm starts going, she’s fine and she can do it. And she gets herself open.”

The Ramblers never relinquished the lead, with Souza (14 points), Wilson-Falcone (seven) and Shie Smith (six) helping to secure the victory, but the Raiders had enough for a final challenge. Oak Hill went on a 6-1 run that finished with just under four minutes to play, getting a jumper from Charlotte Waterman and two layups from Brianna Mulherin (team-high 13 points) to cut the score to 34-31.

A familiar name extinguished the Oak Hill hope, as Souza hit a three to boost the lead to 37-31 with three minutes to go.

“We just did a little change of pace on the defensive end, but I don’t know that that made a big difference,” Raiders coach Michael LaBonte said of the late attempt at a comeback. “They get a little angry sometimes, you tell them ‘Sometimes, you’ve just got to play basketball.'”

The finish was startling after two and a half quarters in which the Raiders’ inside game, led by Mulherin and Abby Nadeau (nine points, all in the first half), seemed too much for the Ramblers to answer.

“We stopped being a little patient on offense,” LaBonte said. “Making that extra pass, and they certainly started hitting some shots. They got into that stretch there where Souza hit about four or five shots in a row. That really turned the tide.

“It can be a challenge. You’ve just got to answer the call when something like that happens, because basketball is a game of runs.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

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Twitter: @dbonifantMTM