Dateline-Roswell, Ga: Al Falah Academy put an end to the Lady Cougars’ New Year winning streak on Saturday afternoon, besting their hostesses by a score of 42 – 28. Playing for the fourth time in as many days, the Cougars capped off a week that witnessed two AAC victories, and a split against non-conference foes. Despite the 14 point margin of defeat, the Lady Cougars displayed strong team and individual defensive execution throughout the match. Unfortunately, a game long shooting draught coupled with a few stretches of inattention to rebounding, simply prevented TCS from claiming a fifth straight win.
First quarter play set the tone for the entire game, as Al Falah initiated physical play and a commitment to initiating the fast break. Ana Mills and Alyssa Briggs drew the first scores of the afternoon, but the rims immediately tightened up for the home town heroines. Paced by a hard charging Haneen, who pumped in 8 first period points, the visitors built up a seven point lead after the first eight minutes. During the second quarter, Al Falah expanded their lead by five more points. Cottage could get nothing to fall from mid range, long range, or even from underneath. The foul shot emerged as the only consistent TCS weapon as active drives, coupled with the liberal use of forearms and hips brought Cottage to the charity stripe on numerous occasions. Reserve Hannah Katz salted a foul shot, while Briggs added three more, sandwiched around a Celeste Jeoffroy turnaround in front of the basket. At halftime the scoreboard proclaimed a 22 – 11 lead.
Objectively this contest felt much closer than the eleven point deficit. Surely the cold shooting would not last for the full 32 minutes, Al Falah already sported three players with three or more fouls, and the TCS press did induce turnovers. Ready for the rally, TCS took to the court determined to battle back. For the next 16 minutes the two teams battled on practically even terms, with Al Falah notching 20 second half points to 17 for TCS. Although TCS gamely put together two runs sparked by a bevy of turnovers, the cold shooting continued, preventing the Lady Cougars from ever cutting the margin to less than double digits. In the third stanza, the foul line remained the offensive mainstay with Briggs netting four shots from the line. In the final four minutes, TCS offered up a final run, in part buoyed by two disqualifications due to excessive fouls and yet another flurry of forced turnovers. Jeoffroy dashed to the hoop and scored as Briggs threaded the needle through a cluster of defenders, but the other seven points down the stretch all came from a foul shot, or lay-up fast break finishes. Unfortnately there was not enough time to close the gap even more. The game ended with AL Falah sealing the deal on a 42 – 28 win.
On an afternoon when only seven players suited up for action, the bench would clearly play a key role. Julia McCauley recorded playing time in all four quarters, generally from the guard spot. Although the “shootingitis” afflicted McCauley as much as the rest of the team, but she came up big on the boards, hauling in 6, while also applying the needed defensive pressure. Eighth grade athlete Hannah Katz checked in with her most impactful performance of her TCS career. Katz drew two fouls of her own, connecting on a foul shot to enter into the scoring column. Katz also stepped up her individual defense, physically marking up on taller opponents, and forcing them to turn down shots, and also preventing them from driving to the basket. As testimony to her commitment to the defensive side of the game, Katz was whistled up for five fouls, earning her first DQ of her career. Under the circumstances of this match, the coaching staff applauded the turn of events, as the fouls indicated defensive activity and a willingness to fight “fire with fire” against a highly physical team. Katz also earned 3 rebounds and 1 steal.
Lilian Travis and Finley Love began the game as the defensive backcourt. Love hit the boards for 3 rebounds, and followed one offensive board home for a two point tip in. She also passed for an assist, and added a steal to her totals. Travis shared in the cold shooting contagin and did not score in this contest. Travis did snake into the lane to nab 2 boards from the tall visitors, and also helped to set the tone on the press.
Celeste Jeoffroy played big minutes in the afternoon. She added 6 points to the Lady Cougars’ total, and a matching number of rebounds. Jeoffroy remained an active disruptor in the passing lanes, as evidenced by her 5 steals.
Ana Mills and Alyssa Briggs essentially played wire to wire. Mills bookended the game with first and fourth quarter field goals to tally 4 points, to go along with a blocked shot, 8 rebounds, and a game high 6 steals. Briggs absorbed more body blows than the U.S.S. Lexington during the Battle of the Coral Sea. The sacrifice paid off in terms of trips to the foul line, as Briggs converted a career high 9 foul shots, en route to a team high 15 points. Briggs also grabbed 8 rebounds, blocked a shot of her own, and thieved her way to 4 steals.