Dateline – Roswell, Ga In a re-match of a mid-December clash, Johnson Ferry made a return trip to the friendly confines of the Cougar Center. After a week on the road, The Cottage School looked forward to an out of conference tune up before facing the high flying Hawks of Howard School on Friday evening.
In the early going the game threatened to resemble a replay of last Friday’s foray to Lyndon Academy. The visitors employed an aggressive full court press, generated turnovers, and quickly built an early margin. At this juncture any bandwagon fans who chose that moment to jump ship, found themselves caught in limbo, as the Lady Cougars took effective countermeasures, putting up 13 first quarter points in one of their most productive stanzas of the season. Brandy Michelle Finnell got her team onto the board with an emphatic and one, followed up almost immediately with a Julia Baumohl drop step finish deep in the paint. The quarter witnessed incredibly balanced scoring as five different Lady Cougars scored. At the end of the first quarter, Johnson Ferry held a three point advantage. In the second frame, baskets turned into a scarce commodity as both teams upped their defensive pressure. Maria Knezek connected on a pair of finishes to account for all of Cottage’s points, while the visitors retaliated with six points of their own.
At the half, the team reviewed the necessity of patience on offense and tighter rotations on the perimeter. Defense continued as the main storyline in the third quarter, but Cottage achieved a breakthrough as two fast breaks allowed them to inch within two points as the final quarter began. A lifetime of action and plot twists packed themselves inot the final eight minutes of the contest. With a little under four minutes remaining both teams stood knotted with 31 points each. Unfortunately Johnson Ferry took advantage of some timely free throws, and a couple of buckets to extend the lead. Not ready to fold just yet, Cottage ran their offense, missed a jumper, only to see sixth man Emily Daugherty corral the rebound and score to claw to within three points. Cottage would make another stop, receive the ball from under their basket, and attempt a gadget play to sneak away with a score with about 13 seconds showing on the game clock. A broken play resulted in the ball somehow careening to the Cougars’ offensive zone, but to no avail. In desperation, the Lady Cougars deliberately fouled to stop the clock, but by this time, there was not enough sand left in the hourglass to gain more opportunities. The visitors escaped with a 36 – 33 victory.
Shakirah Wazeerud-Din received medical clearance and made her season debut for the Lady Cougars in the first and second periods. Like old times, Wazeerud-Din patrolled the paint, muscling her way to a total of 7 rebounds, and an emphatic blocked shot that certainly deserved to make ESPN’s evening highlight reel.
Sixth man Emily Daugherty made the most of her playing time with an incredibly efficient performance. She bossed her way to 8 rebounds (4 offensive) along with 1 assist, and a season high 6 points.
The rest of the bench made their presence felt as well. Maxine Moore, Hannah Katz and Analin Merchant all saw first half action. The trio helped to anchor the perimeter defense as the game tightened up. Tracy Li spelled the post to score 2 points, to supplement her 3 rebounds (1 offensive). In the second half Finley Love provided the backcourt relief and collected a rebound.
The three headed hydra of the backcourt again forced their will upon the tempo of the game. Alex Nebel scored a nifty jump shot in the early going, blocked a shot to save a hoop and short circuit a fast break, while handing out 2 assists and grabbing 1 rebound. Natalie Yager committed to the boards with 7 big rebounds (1 offensive) from the backcourt. She also scored 2 points in the first frame on a short jump shot, while getting an assist, and stealing the ball 6 times. Maria “The Thief of Roswell” Knezek again led her teammates with 7 big steals, while also pumping in 12 points, distributing the ball for 3 assists, and outjumping her competitors for 5 rebounds.
Julia Baumohl started in the post positon, and turned in a highly balanced effort. She snatched up 3 offensive and 3 defensive rebounds, scored 4 points, and forced a pair of steals.
Brandy Michelle Finnell turned in a true rebounding gem, hauling down an eye popping 20 boards (including 7 from the offensive glass. Finnell also dished for an assist and scored 5 points.