Dateline – Roswell, Ga. The Lady Cougars closed out their regular season with a home game against the Lady Warriors of Wilson Academy. This game truly felt like leaping into a dark room, as the Lady Warriors, playing in their inaugural campaign, never before matched up against TCS. With the opening tip, both teams proceeded to write a brand new chapter in their schools’ sports history, that fans will talk about for years to come.
Cottage won the opening tip, but could not score until their third possession when speedster Maria Knezek drained a short range jump shot. Overcoming tight defense, visitors Jayden Dixon and Destiny Saladin strung together two field goals to claim an edge for Wilson. The Lady Cougars refused to surrender additional points through the balance of the first frame, while also scoring on a Brandy Michelle Finnell free throw, and on a bank shot three pointer from resident sniper Alex Nebel. The second quarter witnessed another eight minute defensive clinic as both teams only ground out four points apiece. TCS took the narrowest of leads (10-8) into the locker room, as they geared up for second half action.
The trench warfare style continued as third period action commenced. Again, the Lady Cougar’s commitment to tough perimeter defense limited Wilson’s offensive options, only allowing them to score 4 points for the third consecutive quarter of play. For their part, Cottage achieved a degree of separation late in the third, when Knezek connected on three field goals, including two fast break finishes, while Finnell received a nifty pass from Knezek for an inside score of her own. Anyone thinking that Cottage’s six point lead going into the final quarter represented an insurmountable lead experienced a rude awakening as Dixon and Sydney Wilson combined for six points of their own, while Cottage could not buy a basket. A breakaway layup, scored under pressure, by Nebel gave the Lady Cougars their ultimate two point margin of victory. However, the issue would not be settled until the final frantic minute of the game, a moment that stretched out for nearly an eternity for both squads. During that time, each team claimed at least three possessions each, the coaches burned a total of three timeouts, taking the participants and spectators on an emotional rollercoaster worthy of a Six Flags ride.
Cottage now takes to the hardwoods on Monday at 1:00 PM to contest the #2 seed Howard Hawks for the right to play in the championship game!
Finley Love, Hannah Katz, and Maxine Moore all saw floor time in the backcourt. Love picked up steal as a Lady Warrior drove into heavy traffic, sparking a one woman fast break of her own. Moore and Katz checked into the game in the third quarter, as they helped to maintain the defensive play that allowed Cottage to build their six point margin.
Analin Merchant substituted for the frontcourt for the first time in several games. She squeezed off a mid-range jumper in the flow of the offense, but the ball rimmed out.
Shakirah Wazeerud-Din grappled her way to 5 rebounds (including one offensive ‘bound), while also earning a trip to the foul line.
Emily Daugherty also went to the foul line in the first quarter. She worked her way to 10 rebounds (2 offensive), while forcing 2 steals.
Alex Nebel arguably played the most well rounded game of her TCS career. On the offensive end, she lit up the Warriors for 8 points, and crashed the boards for 4 offensive rebounds. Defensively, Nebel secured a rebound, and came up with 6 steals.
Maria Knezek also tired her hand in the Jack of All Trades category as she imposed herself on every facet of the game. Offensively, Knezek tossed in 8 points, while sneaking in for an offensive board, and passing for an assist. Defensively The Thief of Roswell took the lead in the perimeter zone, and stole the ball 6 times.
Your seniors, appearing in their very last game in the friendly confines of the Cougar Center acquitted themselves well, and helped push their team to victory.
Julia Baumohl played limited minutes as she works her way into full participation under a concussion protocol. Baumohl tied up a couple of balls, earned a steal, and grabbed a defensive board. Baumohl also squeezed off a couple of her patented high arching shots from the block, and from the high post, but the basketball gods conspired against a scoring opportunity on this night.
Playing in her accustomed role as point guard, and all around defensive pest, Natalie Yager also played an outsized part in the outcome of this roundball drama. Although shut out in the scoring column, Yager stepped into the passing game by handing out a game high 3 assists, and crashing the offensive boards to claim 2 rebounds. On the defensive end of the court, Yager also corralled 2 boards, while picking the Lady Warrior’s pockets for a game high 8 steals.
Of this year’s graduating seniors, none logged as many minutes, or played as many contests in the Cougar Center as Brandy Michelle Finnell. Patrolling the hardwoods since her middle school years, Finnell turned in one final effort on this evening. Nothing came easy on offense, as a smothering Wilson Academy zone gave her precious little room to operate. Nevertheless, Finnell willed her way to 4 points, came up with 4 big steals, and reached an even 10 rebounds (4 offensive) in her final home game.