Dateline – Roswell, Ga. The Lady Cougars did it again, prevailing with a flair for the dramatic as they squeaked by GISA member Midtown International Academy by a score of 31 – 30. Like Friday’s game, this match also came down the final play of the game, and also seemed to pack a lifetime worth of action in the final three minutes.
The visiting Lady Lynx scored the first hoop of the game, as both teams continually succumbed to their opponent’s defensive pressure. The two teams could not gain any degree of separation form one another, as the first eight minutes ended with the score knotted at six points each. The Lady Cougars failed to convert on some great looks at the hoop, and gave up far too many offensive rebounds to the leaping Lynx. In contrast, TCS used solid defense as the trump card, preventing the visitors from achieving a lead. The first frame saw three different Cougars ring up baskets: senior Maria Knezek, Alyssa Briggs, and Alex Nebel.
The second quarter generally followed the same scrip, with the ladies from M.I.A. scoring first, and using timely offensive rebounding to claw ahead of their hosts by a score of 16 – 13. The Cougars often needed to gut out their points the hard way. Steal s and finishes by guards Knezek and Briggs, a free throw converted after an offensive rebound by Ana Mills, and a powerful post move by Wazeerud-Din (ably assisted by Nebel) accounted for all seven of the Lady Cougar’s hard earned points. The halftime respite afforded the home towners the opportunity to rethink their approach, resulting in a changed up defensive look. Players and coaches found common ground on first half strengths and weaknesses, resolving to make some needed adjustments, and to leave it all on the table for the next sixteen minutes of play.
The third quarter took on the aura of a title prizefight as each team seemed to match one another shot for shot and stop for stop. Each squad eeked out six third period points. Wazeerud-Din went to the well with yet another shot from the post, Briggs connected on a hoop assisted by Mills, and the shortest player on the court, Natalia Hoeve, crashed the offensive boards hard for a big put back.
Trailing by three points with eight minutes left, the Lady Cougars sensed that “put up or shut up time” arrived. Buoyed by a raucous parent/student fan base, TCS finished out the contest with 12 points, the only squad to crack double digits for any quarter in the ballgame. The writer must admit that as clock ticked down and the pressure mounted, all objective detachment disappeared, leaving only fragmented flashes of game seared in memory without regard to chronological order. Senior Knezek certainly rose to the occasion again, willing herself to some big steals, scoring on an offensive rebound, and nailing another conventional shot. Briggs committed to the drive, connecting on two acrobatic shots. The second shot rattled home as Briggs absorbed a body blow from an overzealous defender. Hoeve also forced the issue on offense, drawing a big foul, but alas, the basketball gods conspired to prevent the free throws from falling. Playing in only her second game, Larissa Brient stepped up with four huge fourth quarter points of her own, calmly banking in a pair of free throws, and also scoring on an inbounds play. In this sequence, an alert Alex Nebel delivered a precision pass to Brient as she cut to the hoop from a weak side position from deep in the backcourt. The final minute of the game saw TCS holding a three point margin. Both teams touched the ball a number of times over the final seconds, with the visitors nailing down a hoop to pull to within one. The Lady Lynx forced a final turnover with just over five seconds showing on the clock, and the ball poised some ninety-four feet away from their goal. TCS extended their defense, causing their opponents to eat valuable seconds in a desperate attempt to push the ball into the frontcourt. As time expired, the final attempt fell short, allowing TCS to escape with their second consecutive one point victory.
The Cottage frontcourt put on a gutty performance. Shakirah Wazeerud – Din saw limited minutes due to an injury sustained in practice the day before. However, she scored 4 points, blocked 3 shots, stole a ball, and laid claim to 4 rebounds (1 offensive). Emmi Dillehay returned from sick-bay to log short minutes in the first half. She responded with 2 rebounds. Freshman Emma Altermatt spelled her senior counterpart in both halves, jumping in with her most animated performance to date. She fought her way to 4 rebounds (1 offensive), and also tallied an assist to Nebel in first quarter action.
Ana Mills and Alex Nebel continued their jack of all trades act on this night, as both ladies played each position on the court. Mills received the starting nod, and again pulled off a varied stat line. Mills committed to the rebounding game, as evidenced by 4 ‘bounds on both ends of the court. She also added the first frame free throw, dished for an assist, and stole three balls. Nebel did not connect on her coveted trifectas from the Alabama state line, but she rose to the occasion in so many other ways. Her 11 rebounds (3 offensive) paced the team, her team high 3 assists demonstrated her commitment to the passing game, while her 2 steals and 2 points made a difference in this unbelievably close game.
Natalia Hoeve and Finley Love both came off the bench to provide backcourt relief. Hoeve scooped up one offensive rebound, which she converted into a bucket, while also commandeering 2 steals of her own. Love jumped into late second half action, injecting fresh legs to maintain the all important defensive pressure.
Larissa Brient , Alyssa Briggs, and Maria Knezek rounded out the starting lineup, combining to decisively impact the outcome of the game. Brient made her presence felt on the boards, ripping down 7 (3 offensive), forcing a steal, and shooting for 4 key fourth quarter points. Knezek and Briggs continued their Batman and Robin act, as both checked in with monster games. Briggs pumped in a game high 10 points, scoring off of steals, offensive rebounds, and daring drives to the rack. She also recorded 3 rebounds (1 offensive), an assist, and a steal. Knezek continued to fill her role as the undisputed Thief of Roswell as she amassed 11 steals for the evening. She also passed for an assist, picked up a nifty blocked shot, hauled in 5 rebounds (2 offensive) and ground out 8 points: 2 hoops off of “grab and goes,” one on the strength of an offensive put back, and conventional bucket.
The team travels to The Howard School on Friday for a match fraught with playoff implications. By the way, inform your families and friends that it is almost past time to jump on the bandwagon. . .this team is for real!