Dateline-Roswell, Ga. – In game two of the 2018 campaign, the Lady Cougars played host of their GA-400 rivals, the Lady Rams of Covenant Christian Academy. The Lady Rams, members of the Georgia Christian Athletic Association, always provide a difficult match-up for the hometowners, with Cottage last picking up a win in January of 2015. By getting the rust out of their systems less than 48 hours earlier, the Cougars looked forward to putting together a much more complete game for their fans.
In the early going the Rams seventh grade phenome, Hannah Harris, started the action with her foot firmly pressed on the accelerator. On her team’s second possession, Harris swished a deep three pointer from the corner, and followed up with two driving lay-ups, allowing the visitors to build a quick 13 – 1 lead. Maria Knezek provided the only Lady Cougar answer in the early going, as she connected on a foul shot, after absorbing body contact as she squeezed off a short jumper in heavy traffic. Just when it appeared that the Ram’s onslaught would overwhelm Cottage, a strategic timeout allowed the team to make important defensive adjustments. CCA did not score for the balance of the quarter, while Knezek pulled Cottage closer with a short jump shot, on assist by Brandy Michelle Finnell from deep inside the paint.
The second period of play witnessed the Lady Cougars up the ante on the defensive end even more, as active hands and intelligent anticipation allowed them to continually short circuit the Lady Ram’s attack. During the eight minutes, the Rams only managed four points. Points did not come easily for TCS either, but through persistence they ground out six of their own. Natalie Yager helped her team first, sweeping in from the backcourt to gather on offensive rebound for a quick put back. A couple of minutes later, Finnell drew a foul in the act of shooting as she operated from the block. Finnell made her shots count as she calmly drained both shots from the charity stripe.
After their halftime respite, both teams girded themselves for a hard fought second half, as the visitors nursed a tight four point advantage. After a couple of fruitless possessions, the Lady Rams struck first, with Harris hitting a jump shot within the flow of the halfcourt set. Almost immediately, Cottage matched the score as Knezek rattled home a jump shot off a deft pass from Emily Daugherty. A few possessions later, Daugherty celebrated her first score as a high school player with a strong bank shot assisted by Alex Nebel. The final hoop of the quarter arrived via an offensive tip in by Yager, as she successfully played off of a misfired tip in from post player Julia Baumohl.
The final stanza began with the Lady Rams still holding a narrow four point lead as the area buckled their collective seat belts for the final intense minutes. Responding to the frenetic defensive pressure, and a desire to gain the victory, Cottage punched through with three consecutive baskets to take the lead. Knezek began the run with yet another jumper, assisted from an inside out pass from center Finnell. At the six minute mark, Finnell struck with a field goal of her own from the block. After several stops, Julia Baumohl struck with her first basket of the game with a short jump shot set up by a Daugherty pass. Rallying after a timeout, the Lady Rams got back on the board with a post move to knot the score again. Each team held fast until the two minute mark when Harris floated home a runner in traffic. Harris would add one more basket sixty seconds later to bump her team’s advantage to four points. As the final seconds ticked off, Cottage worked the ball to sharp shooter Alex Nebel, who squeezed off three separate three pointers from deep in international waters. Unfortunately tight rims denied Cottage the opportunity to steal away the win.
“Both teams left it all out on the court tonight,” commented Coach Tasha after the match. “The two squads upped the defensive pressure to mid-season form. For our part, we showed much more patience on offense, and everyone committed to hitting the boards hard. It was a tough loss, but we all feel good about the improvement that we showed over just two days.”
The Lady Cougars will take advantage of three practice sessions before taking to the lair of their longtime rivals from the other end of GA-400, the Lady Panthers of Brandon Hall.
Senior Brandy Michelle Finnell set the tone on defense and off the boards, sacrificing her body in pursuit of loose balls, and in keeping the visitors out of the paint. Finnell fought her way to a season high 13 rebounds (including EIGHT from the offensive boards), while also kicking in 4 points. She also assisted on two scores, and grabbed 5 steals.
Junior Emily Daugherty filled the “sixth man” role, giving her team an important boost. Daugherty attacked the glass with abandon, gaining 7 rebounds. In addition to her bank shot score, Daugherty also stole the ball, handed out two assists, and recorded a blocked shot.
Second year player Julia Baumohl put together the best game of her short career. Eclipsing her previous rebounding personal best, Baumohl scraped her way to 16 rebounds, while gathering 5 steals, and swatting back a Lady Ram’s shot. She also scored a jumper for the second straight game.
Seventh grader Findley Love and freshman Natalia Hoeve provided backcourt relief for their teammates. Love’s big moment came just before halftime. On the last possession of the half, Cottage missed a shot in a semi-fast break. Love followed the play, scooped up the offensive rebound, but could not connect on the difficult shot as the halftime buzzer sounded. Hoeve got whistled out for two early fouls, but settled in to key the perimeter defense. For a second consecutive game, Hoeve grabbed 5 rebounds from her guard position, including 2 from the offensive end.
Analin Merchant checked in during the tight third quarter. She ran the floor well and helped to maintain the high level of defense that allowed her team to climb closer to the game.
Alex Nebel received her first starting nod for the season, responded with a great all around game. In addition to an assist, she stepped into the passing lanes with 3 steals, while grabbing 5 rebounds (including 3 offensive). Although Nebel did not connect on her trifecta attempts, she demonstrated a true shooters’ mentality but taking the shots without hesitation when the game situation dictated. Nebel also sparked a number of fast breaks with strong dribbling, or by making the quick outlet pass.
The starting backcourt logged a particularly strong two way game. Maria “the Thief of Roswell” Knezek returned to past season’s form when she continually picked the Lady Rams for 10 steals. She also hit the boards for 3 rebounds, and led her team with 9 points. Natalie Yager tied her career best with 6 points, while also poking the ball away for 8 steals, passing the ball for 2 assists, and coming down with 11 rebounds, including 7 off the offensive glass.