By DANIEL POULTER
Maria Carrillo was fortunate to have the Sowards sisters on their side Wednesday night.
Senior Madison Sowards had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds and sister Aaliyah, a junior, scored the game-winning basket with 33 seconds remaining as the Pumas kept their one-game lead over Santa Rosa in the NBL standings with a narrow 34-33 win against Montgomery at home on Wednesday.
Maria Carrillo's win sets up an important showdown Friday night at Santa Rosa.
Maria Carrillo clamped down on the defensive end to start the game and built a 12-5 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Vikings turned the tables on the home squad, holding the Pumas scoreless for the first four minutes of the second quarter. Led by Claire Donnelly's defensive effort, Montgomery took a 17-14 lead midway through the second quarter but couldn't hold the lead as Maria Carrillo rallied to take an 18-17 lead at halftime.
Maria Carrillo surged ahead with a 7-0 run to start the second half, taking a 23-17 lead. But Montgomery countered with a 6-0 run and the game went to the final quarter with the Pumas leading, 27-25.
Montgomery's Chantal Evett hit two 3-pointers to put the Vikings ahead before a 3-pointer by Maria Carrillo's Sara Irvine tied the game at 32. Montgomery hit a three throw to push ahead but Sowards scored to put the Pumas ahead for good.
Montgomery, which nearly got a double-double from Donnelly (16 rebounds, nine points), struggled from the free-throw line, missing 13 of 22 attempts.