Dateline Roswell, Ga. – What a difference 72 hours makes! After experiencing a thirty six drubbing at the hands of a supremely talented Oak Mountain squad, the Lady Cougars knew that the path forward required a three prong plan to right the ship. The road back would require a re-commitment to rebounding, attention to defensive rotations, and movement on offense. From the opening tip-off, the Lady Cougars demonstrated the will to apply the lessons learned the hard way.
The Lady Cougars opened up conference play by hosting their traditional rivals, the Lady Mustangs of Mill Springs Academy. In the early going, the home town frontcourt put down a hammerlock on the backboards. Starting center Shakirah “The Wizard of Waz” Wazeerud-Din, hit the boards early and often, especially on the offensive end, to give her teammates second chance shots at the goal. On the defensive end, the Lady Cougars quickly picked up with their double teams, while also playing the passing lanes on the weak side of the court. When they took to the offensive end of the court, TCS exhibited a willingness to push the ball in order to find the most open players. The results manifested themselves immediately and emphatically. At the end of eight minutes Wazeerud-Din amassed 4 offensive boards to go with 2 points. Fellow senior Maria Knezek chipped in with 5 steals of her own to go along with 4 points, while Anna Mills and Alyssa Briggs also scored a basket each, allowing Cottage to jump out to an 11 – 0 lead.
In the second frame the Lady Mustangs showed signs of climbing back in as new defensive schemes consistently stymied the Cottage attack. Although MSA got on the scoreboard with a pair of buckets, TCS managed to double their rival’s output by ringing up 8 second quarter points. Again, Knezek led the way with 4 second quarter points to pace her team.
In the halftime pow – wow the ladies resolved to continue their high level of execution. The third quarter started innocently enough, but then disaster struck the visitors, when one of their five players came up hobbling. The already shorthanded Mustangs had no reserve to plug into the game. In an effort to provide a level playing field, the Cottage Coaching staff opted to counter with only four players of their own. The missing two participants seemed to open up more lanes and spaces for the hungry Cougars, who ended the quarter with a flourish, ringing up 11 points, while holding MSA to 2 points.
Despite playing with only four players, and employing some rather improvisational lineups, the home town team put together their second most proficient quarter of the season, as they shot their way to 15 fourth period points en route to a 45 – 13 conference victory.
Friday’s second annual Pink Out Night marked the second time this season that the Lady Cougars broke the 40 point barrier. The 2014 – 2015 “fun and gun” Lady Cougars (featuring Dinarah Rothman, Ellie Rappoport, Shannon Fritz, Kelly MacDonald, and Sabrina Youssef) represented the last TCS team to pull the trick off, which they did not accomplish until the second semester.
The TCS centers set the tone for the game with a relentless will to own the offensive boards. Sharkirah Wazeerud-Din constantly attacked the rim, scoring all of her 4 points in the first half. More importantly, the Wizard hauled down a game high 13 rebounds, including an eye popping 9 plucked from the offensive glass. The senior rounded out her efforts with 2 steals and a blocked shot. Tracy Li provided depth off the bench, but also served in tandem with Wazeerud-Din in a highly productive first half run. Although Li did not connect on this evening, she hit double digits on the rebounding front for the first time this season, muscling her way to 10, including a big 7 on the offensive end. Li also handed out her first assist of the 2018-2019 campaign. Emma Altermatt maintained her customary staring frontcourt role. In addition to forcing the issue on defense with great double teams, Altermatt grabbed a couple of rebounds.
A variety of players got into the backcourt act. Findley Love banked home her first hoop of the season off an inbounds play, to go along with a steal. Lillian Travis squeezed off a nice shot and also harassed a green jersey into a steal. Hannah Katz enjoyed first and second half stints. She hit the offensive boards, gaining yet another offensive carom for her team. Maxine Moore took over backcourt duties, and helped to lock down the left wing during a Cottage “counterpunch” in the second quarter. Both Malia Richards and Eleanor Gaffneystone marked up on a much taller guard when Cottage resorted to man to man play. Despite the disparity in size, Richards’ and Gaffneystone’s determination and focus did not allow MSA to take advantage of the apparent mismatch.
Two “supersubs” came off the bench to showcase their versatility as they played both in the frontcourt and in the guard slots. Emmi Dillehay shook off the lingering impacts of a recent illness to provide additional muscle and hustle as evidenced by 2 boards, 2 steals, and 1 assist in relatively limited minutes. Alex “Dr. Stangelove” Nebel continued her morbid fascination with the bomb, as she connected on two three point harpoons accounting for all six of her points. Nebel also tallied 1 steal and 2 rebounds.
The starting backcourt also distinguished themselves with stellar, well rounded games. Anna Mills logged her second start of the season, firing her way to 6 points. Not content to rely on offensive fireworks alone, Mills also banged her way to 7 rebounds, and ball hawked her way to 3 steals. Alyssa Briggs represented the Middle School in a big way Friday night, as she filled up the nets with 11 points. Briggs also poked the ball away for 4 steals, led the game with 3 assists, and snaked her way into the paint for 7 ‘bounds (3 offensive). Maria Knezek again lived up to her basketball moniker, The Thief of Roswell, as she harassed her way to 15 steals. In addition to this defensive onslaught, Knezek dished an assist, hit the offensive boards 4 times, and pumped in 16 points, largely on the strength of fast break finishes following Cottage steals.
The Lady Cougars roll out the red carpet Tuesday afternoon to their “GA-400” rival, the Lady Panthers of Brandon Hall, who made the jump to Georgia Independent School Association play a few years ago. A Friday game against perennial conference power The Howard School will serve to cap off next week’s basketball action.