Bel Air High's Jacinda Woodruff and Alanis Candelaria are arguably the best guard combo in the city.
And on Tuesday night, when their Bel Air teammates needed them most, they came through.
Candelaria poured in 23 points and Woodruff added 19 to lead the No. 2-ranked Highlanders past visiting No. 3-ranked Franklin 62-55 to take over first place in District 1-5A.
"Jacinda is the glue that holds this team together and Alanis made some key shots for us all night," Bel Air coach Clay Ward said. "This was a good win against a very good Franklin team."
Bel Air (23-2, 9-1 in district) led just 55-53 with 2:22 left in the game. That's when Woodruff came up huge. She made a strong drive to the basket and scored on a layup. Then after a defensive stop, she found Kendra Vega for a basket and a 59-53 lead with just 1:31 left.
Franklin (15-7, 8-2) never got within reach again and the Highlanders earned their second win of the season against the Cougars.
"A team effort," Woodruff said. "We played good defense and we just wanted this one really bad. It was a tough game, but we were able to pull it out."
The game was hard-fought throughout the evening. Bel Air led 51-43 with 4:27 left, but Franklin got back into the game on a 10-4 run keyed by five points from Julie Ramirez and three from Carlie Akina.
"We kept our composure after they got within two points," Woodruff said. "We just settled down and executed down the stretch."
Bel Air, which is the defending district champion, led for much of the night, leading 26-21 at the half and 42-35 after three quarters.
Candelaria was simply hard to handle on offense, scoring 10 points in the first half and 13 in the second, including a nifty spin move in the second half for a layup.
"I just got aggressive out there and got some good looks at the basket," Candelaria said.
Franklin, coming off big wins against Eastwood, El Dorado and Coronado, got 17 points from Akina and 15 from Ramirez. Ramirez scored 11 of her 15 in the second half, while Akina had nine in the second half.
Felix Chávez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 546-6167. Follow him on Twitter @fchavezeptimes