Dateline – Alpharetta, Ga: In their final regular season Atlanta Athletic Conference match of the season, the Lady Cougars took to the road to face the Lady Mustangs of Mill Springs Academy. A win in this meeting would mark a second semester sweep by the Lady Cougars of their conference competition, a feat never before attained by the ladies’ program. Furthermore, a win would at least temporarily give TCS the number one seed, at least until Atlanta Area School and Howard complete their games against MSA.
The Lady Cougars clearly came out of the box ready to play, and ready to attend to all of the “little details” that coaches constantly harp on. Stifling defense and rebounding, especially from the offensive end of the court, served as the Cougar’s calling cards right from the get go. Establishing superior play in these two crucial areas proved most opportune as Cottage endured a woeful shooting night, and encountered a Mustang outfit that certainly elevated their defensive play from the first, early fall meeting. Both teams struggled mightily to score in the early going. Indeed well over two minutes of time expired before Maria Knezek stole a ball in the frontcourt, and outraced everyone to lay home a score. Despite working the ball around and earning a number of legitimate shots at the hoop, Cottage found themselves as broke as a joker. Knezek rose to the occasion by willing home a short jumper, and by converting on another exciting grab and go. At the close of one quarter, TCS held a 6 – nil lead. The rims loosened a little in the next quarter, as the visitors squeezed out 9 points while surrendering 4. In this period the points came on inside-outside fashion. Knezek followed an offensive board with a score, and center Shakirah Wazeerud-Din operated in the pain to drive home two buckets. Predictably enough, the outside points occurred when Alex Nebel pulled on her bombardier jacket, and cued up a three pointer. In the second half, inspired MSA defense again troubled the visitors, but again, a lockdown on the boards and consistent pressure of their own derailed any sort of MSA rally. Over the final sixteen minutes the Lady Cougars pumped in 10 second half points en route to a 25 – 9 victory.
Lots of folks came off the bench to provide sustained pressure, and to fill the lanes on offense. Finley Love and backcourt mate Maxine Moore saw action in both halves, as they provided sustained double teaming help for their teammates. Sophomore Natalia Hoeve put on another one of her pinball performances. She did not connect on her jumper, but Hoeve ran down an offensive rebound, and also kept up the defensive pressure. Hannah Katz, Malina Richards, and Eleanor Gaffneystone represented the Middle School well. Katz jumped in for two appearances in the second half, filling in at the wind position, while Richards recorded an offensive rebound, and Gaffneystone committed to running the floor. Lillian Travis also jumped in, fresh from her elective session of flag football to add spark to her team on the hardwoods.
Larissa Brient ably filled the role of sixth man for the game. Although the basketball gods conspired against her on the scoring front, her Stat line reveals a most active presence. For the game she hauled in 7 rebounds (6 from the offensive side of the court), along with 7 steals.
Three ladies filled the low post. Starting center Shakirah Wazeerud-Din led her teammates with 10 rebounds , gathered a steal, and threw back 3 blocked shots, in addition to her 4 post points. Leighton Braglia fought her way to a rebound, and even impersonated a point guard late in the game as she dribbled up the court to activate the offense. Emmi Dillehay came off the bench to bolster the Lady Cougar’s muscle game, banging her way to 4 offensive rebounds, 2 points on the strength of a follow, and 3 steals.
Ana Mills also served as an unsung heroine for the evening. Again tight rims deprived her of any tallies in the scoring column, but again, the hustling frosh continued to battle in the trenches as evidenced by her 6 boards (including 5 offensive caroms).
The three starting guards all stepped up, overcoming the ice cold shooting by excelling in other areas. Alex Nebel played an inspired game on the defensive end as evidenced by her 3 steals and numerous deflections. Nebel also fought her way to 8 rebounds (3 offensive), passed for an assist, blocked one shot to short circuit a rare MSA fast break attempt, to go with 5 points. Alyssa Briggs jumped into the passing lanes to claim 6 steals, while also positioning herself to grab 7 rebounds (5 offensive). Briggs also gained an assist, and scored 4 points, all in the second half. Maria Knezek found herself in the positon of carrying the offensive load, knocking home 10 points, to march her 10 steals. Knezek also attacked the boards for 7 rebounds (6 offensive) and blocked a shot that served as the cherry on her sundae.