Dateline: Roswell, Ga – The Lady Indians and the Lady Cougars renewed their budding rivalry in the seventh contest between the two programs. Last January, the visiting Lady Cougars scored their first ever victory against a Georgia Public High School team on a last second shot by Maria “the Thief of Roswell” Knezek. Similarly, Friday evening’s contest offered up an adrenaline junkie’s paradise as Cottage held off a furious Cross Keys rally, eventually prevailing in overtime.
The first quarter began in typical 2020-2021 fashion as defense served as the calling card, and nothing came easily on the offensive end for either team. Both squads managed to grind out seven points apiece. After the visitor’s struck first, eighth grade phenome Finley Love put her team on the board early with a short banker. Junior Galya Kysar fought her way to a mid-ranger of her own, while Alex Nebel dialed up a three point dagger to account for all of the first quarter points.
The second period saw Cottage open up the floodgates on the offensive end, as they enjoyed one of their most productive quarters of the season, filling up the nets with 16 points. On the other end of the floor, the Lady Cougars continued to defend their lair as they only surrendered six points. Alyssa Birggs and Alex Nebel assumed bomb squad duties as they each nailed a trifecta. Much nearer to the hoop, Kysar, Nebel, and super substitute Ana Mills combined for 4 free throws, as their determination to deliver the ball to the rim forced the Indians into committing fouls. Mills also poured in two conventional buckets, and Kysar added another to round out the onslaught.
Unfortunately for Cottage, the free and easy offense of the second period entirely evaporated in the second half. Each team limited to only six points in the third, setting the Lady Cougars up with a ten point advantage going into the fourth. After gaining an extended rest, Coach Radford of Cross Keys adroitly unleashed his fastest guard for the last eight minutes. Aliman C. responded with one of the great individual efforts of this season. In a blur of perpetual motion, Aliman scored 9 of her team’s 17 fourth quarter tallies. On the defensive side of the ball she forced big steals and stymied the Cottage attack. With :30 ticks on the clock the score remained knotted at 36 points each. Each team ended up with opportunities to put the game away, but the ball ended up in the hands of freshman guard Alyssa Briggs who drew a hard foul with 9/10 of a second showing on the clock. Unfortunately the basketball gods conspired against the storybook ending to the night, as both foul shots failed to connect.
In the overtime period, Cross Keys won the “coin toss,” and elected to take the ball out first. They capitalized with a quick hoop by frontcourt stalwart #24 Sheryl L. Cross Keyes continued their successful pressing efforts, but Cottage also retaliated with some superb individual defensive efforts of their own to consistently force turnovers and to throw sand into the gears of the Cross Keyes machine. Briggs stepped up to take charge offensively in the final stanza, connecting on a foul shot, and banking home two other conventional field goals in heavy traffic. Kysar put the icing on her stat line with a big offensive rebound and tip in, while also making a couple of key open court steals to hold the visitors at bay. In the end, the adrenaline rush of the furious Lady Indians’ fourth quarter pushed the home town team to the limit. But like a veteran prizefighter, the Lady Cougars took their punches, weathered the storm, and executed well enough on defense to hold their foes to a grand total of two overtime points. In the end, the scoreboard testified to the Lady Cougars’ resilience as the scoreboard revealed a 43 – 38 final.
In a game where offensive frustration and a collective shooting draught nearly derailed the game, the Lady Cougars dug deep, continued to trust each other, and found a way to win together. Perhaps in terms of technical execution the game would not achieve greatness in the eyes of a casual observer, but in the eyes of this coaching staff the effort stands out as a Rembrandt.
Operating with a short bench, the Middle School and underclassmen chipped in with minutes to relieve the starters in a game where every possession counted. Lillian Travis and Reagan McMillin both found floor time in first half action, helping Cottage to maintain the man to man commitment for the duration of the game. Ana Mills continues to impress with her sixth man heroics. Offensively, Mills completed the game with 7 points, doing most of her damage with a 5 point outburst in the second quarter. Mills also fought her way to 3 defensive and 3 offensive boards, while also corralling 3 steals. Unfortunately Mills went down with a twisted ankle, which forced her to leave the game prematurely. Sophomore Celeste Jeoffroy logged big minutes, and finished the game filling in for Emmi Dillehay who picked up her fifth foul late in the game. Jeoffroy did not connect on her shots, but earned a permanent place on the all floor burn team with some amazing lunges, including a memorable chase of an errant loose ball deep into the stands. Jeoffroy picked pockets for 4 steals, and grabbed a pair of rebounds.
The Cottage guards played a large part in the evening’s storyline. Finely Love received her second varsity start of the season, earning 2 points, 3 offensive rebounds, a steal, and an assist. Love also found herself closing this white knuckle affair out on the court as she stepped up to replace the injured Ana Mills. Alex Nebel continued to add to her shooting legend as she nailed two “triples” en route to a 7 point effort. She also added 5 steals, dished out an assist, and snuck in for 4 rebounds (3 offensive). In a night when nothing seemed the shots just were not falling, Alyssa Briggs continued to bear down and find ways to contribute. Defensively, the “freshman veteran” ball hawked her way to 11 steals and a pair of blocked shots. Off the boards, Briggs mixed it up with the frontcourt to claim 3 defensive and 5 offensive rebounds. Consistently drawing defenders as she attacked the hoop, Briggs handed out 6 assists. In the end, the guard pushed in a total of 11 points, with 5 of the total coming when her team needed them the most – during the overtime session.
Emmi Dillehay and Galya Kysar joined forces to anchor the frontcourt. Dillehay locked down the post, throwing back an emphatic blocked sot, forcing 4 steals, boxing out for 4 rebounds (including 3 plucked from the defensive end), while also sacrificing her body time and again to claim loose balls. Due to absences Kysar found herself thrust into a most unfamiliar role, but met the challenge with aplomb. On a night when her customary shooting touch seemed to disappear, Kysar checked in with perhaps the best all-around performance of any Cougar this season. Offensively, Kysar willed herself to a team high 14 points, largely on the strength of a “had to see it to believe it” 13 offensive boards, while also passing for an assist. Defensively, Kysar muscled away 7 rebounds, while also netting 11 steals, and ringing up 2 blocked shots.