Lady Cougars Outlast Al Falah; 31 – 28
Dateline – Norcross, Ga. The Lady Cougars concluded their regular season with a re-match of game twelve against the Lady Hawks of Al Falah Academy. The game represented a final tune up against a physical GISA opponent before embarking on tournament action. While no observer felt the need to enshrine a film of this game at the Springfield Basketball Hall of Fame, the Lady Cougars managed to overcome a flurry of turnovers, an injury that severely limited the minutes of Larissa Brient, a bizarrely marked floor, and several miscues to still find a way to win.
The Lady Hawks clearly came to this game loaded for bear. They reeled off two early scores, feeding their mystery guard #2 time and time again. While the Cougars applied themselves on defense, sloppy passing allowed Al Falah far more shots, en route to an 8 – 4 first quarter lead. The second frame bought more of the same, as the Al Falah lead fluctuated anywhere from three to seven points. In the closing minutes of the half the hometowners pushed their lead to seven as halftime commenced. Number 2 provided the hot hand as she pumped in 16 of her team’s total.
Unwilling to fold up like a cheap lawn chair, TCS emerged from the halftime interlude determined to right the ship. During the third quarter, the Lady Cougars surrendered exactly 2 points, while five TCS players combined for 10 points to command the narrowest of leads 23 – 22 as the third period came to a close.
The final frame witnessed a return of “scramble ball” as each team forced turnover after turnover, punctuated by occasional fast break opportunities. As the end of the game loomed, the TCS strategy of continually forcing the issue and driving to the hoop began to pay off, as they earned a number of trips to the foul line. Five players again entered the scoring column as they held off Al Falah to secure a 31 – 28 victory.
The bench provided the Lady Cougars will a needed lift on both ends of the court. Eighth grade phenom Larissa Brient served as the first option off the bench. In limited first half action, Brient continually disrupted the Lady Hawk’s offensive flow with steals. After sustaining an injury, Brient wanted to make a go of it in the second half. During her limited third quarter stint, Brient hit a big mid ranger, and hauled in a couple of boards. Her stat line for the night reveled 5 steals, 2 points, and 3 rebounds (2 offensive). Emmi Dillehay served as the main option off the bench for frontcourt help, although she also made an unexpected cameo on the perimeter as well. Dillehay claimed 2 steals, 3 rebounds (1 offensive), and 3 points. Her scoring came on the strength of a third period field goal, and a free throw in the late fourth quarter. Natalia Hoeve logged minutes “up top” on defense, and gained a defensive rebound in the process, while also marking up on the Lady Hawks hot shooting guard. Finley Love followed in Hoeve’s footsteps, and recorded a steal of her own, while also absorbing a WWF style body blow from an overzealous Al Falah defender. Emma Altermatt warred in the trenches, fighting her way to 2 rebounds.
Alex Nebel boasted 4 points, scored on a pair of first quarter free throws, and a third period jumper. She also passed for 2 assists, gained 2 steals, blocked a shot, and swept the boards for 4 rebounds (1 offensive).
Anna Mills again left it all on the table with another well rounded game. She scored 4, blocked a shot, stole 2 balls, and hit up the boards for 4 rebounds.
Alyssa Briggs hit the boards to bring home 4 rebounds (2 on each side of the court). She also assisted on a score, stole 2 balls, and scored 3 points – all from the foul line.
Maria Knezek took her act to Gwinnett County for the last time as a Lady Cougar. She tossed in 6 points: scored on a steal and score, a third quarter offensive rebound and follow, and a fourth quarter jumper assisted by Briggs. She also came up big on the boards with 8 (3 offensive), passed for 3 assists, blocked a shot, and committed 11 steals.
Capping off her senior regular season, center Sharkirah Wazeerud-Din picked the right game to come alive. In a contest where points did not come easily, Wazeerud-Din tallied a season high 10 points, all from the paint, while also producing points in each and every quarter. The “Wizard” also threw back a shot, gained 3 steals, and pulled down 13 rebounds (including 2 offensive).