Dateline: Atlanta, Ga.-Fresh from a cliffhanger victory over AAC foe Atlanta Area School, the Lady Cougars again assumed the role of road warriors by traveling to the “Thicket” of Heritage Prep. Academy. In the first exhibition action of the season, the Lady Cougars persevered in a one point victory on the Cottage home floor. Thursday’s re-match absolutely delivered a thrilling sequel.
In contrast to the Wednesday contest, where two players (Alyssa Briggs and Lexi Stroothers) dominated the scoring action, this game featured a “share the wealth” storyline from the beginning. Senior center Anika Helm got the party started with two quick baskets converted from deep in the paint. Lady Rams’ standout Camile Peoples kept her team within striking distance with a trio of hard charging drives. After Helm’s initial buckets, Alyssa Briggs and Ana Mills struck from international waters, as both drained three pointers. At the close of period one, Cottage nursed a 10 – 8 advantage.
In the second frame TCS activated the press with mixed results. On the positive side of the ledger, the Lady Cougars forced turnovers, but also allowed the home team to beat the pressure with some adroit passing, allowing four different players to chip in scores. The Lady Cougars responded in kind, with four players of their own breaking into the scoring column. As part of this outburst, Julia McCauley converted on two foul shots after corralling an offensive ‘bound. Junior Lillian Travis snapped the nets with her favorite shot, the three pointer. At the half, Cottage stretched their lead to 3 points.
Determined to flip the script on the visitors, Heritage came out smoking, ultimately lighting up the scoreboard for 11 third quarter points, en route to seizing a one point advantage. While the rims at the Cottage end of the court seemed sealed shut, Love connected on a conventional jump shot, and Mills knocked down her second three pointer. Both late quarter long shots helped to keep the visitors within reasonable striking distance.
For the second night in a row fans, players, and coaches settled in for a wild ride to close out a game. Love struck first with a mid ranger to reclaim the lead, only to see Heritage forward Lila Strange retaliate in kind. The score would prove the last Lady Rams’ points of the night. From that point forward an unrelenting traditional zone set, determined transition defense, and staunch boardwork served to stifle the home team. Helm came up with two buckets to seal the deal – one coming from a feed from Briggs and the other accounted for on an offensive rebound. The last minute of the game rose to a frantic level of activity as Celeste Jeoffroy came up with big steals, and as Heritage relentlessly fouled in desperate attempts to stop the clock. In the end, Mills secured the rebound off an errant shot and ran out the clock.
For the second consecutive night, a tight game dictated an “all hands on deck” approach. On a night where every play loomed large, the bench played a large role in the outcome of the game. Hannah Katz took to the hardwoods early to spell the winded frontcourt players. During her court time, Katz squeezed off a good shot at the bucket and aided in maintaining the transition defense. Finley Love matched her season high by scoring 6 points, knocking down jumpers in the half court set. She also earned a trip to the foul line after aggressively following an offensive rebound. She finished with 2 offensive rebounds and 1 steal to round out the stat sheet. Julia McCauley returned to scoring action when she calmly drained two foul shots following an offensive rebound. She rounded up a total of 2 boards, and deflected a pass as well.
Lillian Travis scored 3 points on the strength of a three ball dialed up on a semi-fast break, and also chased down a rebound.
Point forward Ana Mills kicked in 6 points with 2 deep three pointers. Mills also patrolled the backcourt to slide in for 2 steals, and also banged her way to 8 big boards (2 offensive).
The frontcourt played an outsized role in this contest. Celeste Jeoffroy attacked the glass to sweep up 9 rebounds (2 offensive), and scored three baskets, for six points, from deep in the post. Her fellow center Anika Helm claimed a team high 10 boards (3 offensive), to go along with the obligatory 6 points. No game would be complete without a Helm blocked shot, so for this effort she swatted back 2.
Fresh off of her 31 point eruption, Alyssa Briggs tallied 3 points for the evening. To the untutored eye it might appear that this 28 point swing represented regression. However, for anyone who watched the two games critically, this contest saw the young guard dictate the offense every bit as much. With the defense designed to deny any penetration, and with the perimeter defenders primed to contest any jumper, Briggs took on the role of distributor par excellence. Ringing up a game high 8 assists, Briggs played decoy and spent the evening finding open teammates. Briggs also came up with 4 steals, 3 points, and seven rebounds.