Dateline – Alpharetta, GA In a climatic conclusion to the regular season, the Lady Mustangs of Mill Springs played host to the Lady Cougars Tuesday afternoon. The game served as a re-match of the November 1 season opener in which MSA won by a score of 11 – 6. “Both teams are sky high for this game, and both squads match up very well in terms of experience and skill. Both teams want to kick off their playoff drive with a convincing win,” analyzed Coach Bidlack prior to the tip off. The teams treated the packed-out crowd of spectators to one of the closest and most intense contests of the season.
The Lady Cougars put up the first points, on a Pamela Lalo put back, following an Ellie Rappoport offensive rebound. After a few consecutive defensive stands, MSA leading scorer Shayna Lopp connected on a jumper to knot the game.
“The game started out full throttle, with both teams fully committed to their transition defense and to establishing the break,” commented Coach Cutchin. The frantic pace, however, did not translate into smooth offense. Both teams experienced difficulty in converting their shots, and at the sound of the horn the scoreboard revealed a 4 – 4 tie.
The second frame followed the same template, with ferocious rebounding triggering transition attempts. Mill Springs retained a one- to three-point edge throughout most of the quarter. In the final two minutes, a timely three pointer and conventional field goal provided the spark for the Lady Mustangs to claim a five-point lead going into the locker room.
“At this point, the ladies faced a conundrum, despite their hard and spirited play, their opponents appeared ready to break the game open. Even more disconcertingly, the waves of MSA substitutes seemed to wear down the six-woman Cougar squad. Rather than ‘mail in’ the second half effort, the team rallied, determined to climb back into the game,” recalled Coach Cutchin.
Fueled by an animated crowd, the intensity notched up another octave as the second half commenced. Jailhouse, lockdown defense limited the home team to four points, while Hannah Walker and Pamela Lalo combined for six points to trim the lead to three. With the gym now at a fever pitch, MSA ground out another five-point advantage with just over three minutes to go, and with possession of the ball.
In a stunning defensive sequence, Hannah Walker blocked consecutive shots, allowing TCS to regain possession. A timeout called from the bench set the stage for the final 2:50 of basketball action. Lalo responded with a short banker, successfully completing a drive to the basket on a broken play. Little did the spectators suspect that that basket would conclude the scoring for the afternoon.
Desperate stop followed desperate stop until the final buzzer. “In terms of excitement and energy, this game stood out as our gem this season,” stated Coach Bidlack after the game.
“The game spent our players, physically, emotionally and otherwise, but all of us would have given our eye teeth for the opportunity to put another few minutes on the scoreboard. Our desire to compete and to finish with a ‘W’ was that strong,” added Coach Cutchin.
The Lady Cougars look to apply their competitive fire to the AAC playoffs Monday afternoon, when the vaunted “second season” begins.
Molleah Holder dug deep, particularly on transition defense, to stymie the Lady Mustang attack. Credited with 2 rebounds, a couple of tie ups and a steal, Holder’s ability to play big, quality minutes under physical duress provided a huge lift to her team. . .Similarly, Hannah Walker played a whale of a game: taking charge at both the offensive and defensive ends of the court. Her stat line showed 3 steals and 2 big blocked shots, including “the swat heard around the world,” late in the 4th quarter. Walker also connected on 6 points, including 4 in the second half. . .Elizabeth Lindsay served as the lone substitute on the TCS Bench. Her presence allowed for sorely needed relief of the starters, while maintaining pressure on the MSA frontcourt. . .Emory Shulse forced a steal while pulling down 4 rebounds, as well as helping to bring the ball up against Lady Mustang pressure. . .While Ellie Rappoport served as the youngest player on the court, she dispelled any doubts that she can play at the AAC level. Rappoport led all rebounders with 14 boards (including 5 off the offensive glass). She also scored 2 points and registered a blocked shot. . . Pamela Lalo again spearheaded the offensive attack, ending the game with 12 points. She also chipped in 8 rebounds, forced a steal, while picking up assorted bruises and floor burns in her constant pursuit of loose balls.