Dateline – Milner, Ga: The Lady Cougars closed out the first third of the season with a long road trip to Lamar County to face perennial GISA power St. George Episcopal School. After disembarking from the buses after a two hour slog through Atlanta traffic, the Lady Cougars needed to quickly change gears and get into game mode.
For the first three minutes, it appeared that both squads seemed poised to execute a defensive clinic. Quick rotations, fierce double teams, and efficient work off the defensive boards combined to put an absolute freeze on the offense. Unfortunately, the Lady Cougars got a little too active on defense, allowing the officials to whistle up Maria Knezek and Shakirah Wazeerud-Din for a slew of early fouls. At that point the Lady Dragons started their fire breathing act, rolling off 14 consecutive points to close out the first quarter. The points came from a variety of sources: free throws, a three point bomb, fast break finishes, short range jumpers, and basic post moves.
After landing this early haymaker blow, it looked as though the Lady Dragons were poised to run the visitors out of the building. Fortunately, the next eight minutes allowed the Lady Cougars to right the ship and battle St. George on even terms. In this second frame, Cottage demonstrated balanced scoring, as Wazeerud-Din, Knezek, Alyssa Briggs, and Alex Nebel combined for 8 points. St. George retaliated with 9 points of their own to gain a fifteen point halftime lead.
With the start of the third quarter, the Lady Dragons demonstrated renewed commitment to defense, while a slew of early whistles again banished the Cougar seniors to the bench. St. George capitalized with 12 points of their own. As the Lady Cougar attack began to flag, Briggs took matters into her own hands, forcing the issue by taking the rock to the rim with authority. Her efforts netted 5 third quarter points in the form of a foul shot, a high arcing mid ranger, as well as a conventional dribble dive through the lane.
In the final frame Cottage continued to go their bread and butter, the hard drives to the basket, resulting in four more points from the eighth grader and a bucket for Nebel. Knezek received her final foul early in the quarter, forcing TCS to do without her standout individual defense. St. George continued to show balanced scoring, and also finished off some late game conversions, as Cottage gambles and overplays failed to generate the needed turnovers.
The ride back seemed every bit as formidable as the fiery Lady Dragons, as a GPS miscue sent the buses deeper into the hinterlands of Lamar County before depositing the intrepid road trippers onto a familar state road.
The Lady Cougars look forward to recharging their batteries with family, friends, and individual basketball practice, before engaging with stage two of the 2019-2020 campaign.
A short bench, and the before mentioned foul situation allowed for the bench to check in with some large minutes. Freshman Lillian Travis received her largest share of game time this season. She in bounded the ball, helped bring the ball up the court, and helped to spring the trap on defense. Seventh grader Finley Love checked in for long stretches in both halves. She picked up a rebound after a mad and physical scramble, picked the pocket of a St. George guard, and tossed the ball to a streaking teammate to record her first assist. Like her senior counterparts, Emmi Dillehay found herself as a frequent target for the referees’ whistles. The stat line credits Dillehay with an offensive board, ripped from a St. George center in heavy traffic. Dillehay also exhibited flexibility as she spent time in the “point” position on defense for the first time this season. Similarly, junior Alex Nebel played four different positions over the course of the game, giving her team whatever the game and foul situation called for. She rang up 3 points, canning 1 of 2 free throws in the second frame, and completing a dribble drive through the lane in fourth quarter action. She also recorded 3 steals, nabbed 2 offensive boards, and 1 defensive rebound.
The Thursday night match witnessed another appearance of Cottage’s trio of centers. Shakirah Wazeerud-Din scored 3 points on the strength of a powerful post and one during the second quarter. She also stole a ball, blocked 2 shots, and attacked the boards for 9 ‘bounds (4 offensive) in relatively limited playing time. Tracy Li was unable to convert on her shot attempts, but she harassed her opponents into 2 steals, while also locking down 4 rebounds of her own. Leighton filled the center spot to close out both halves of play. She bodied up on some imposing frontcourt players, and chased down a loose ball.
Emma Altermatt held down the high post effectively on defense, and ran the floor quite well. Fellow freshman Ana Mills did not score on this evening, but ran down 3 rebounds, and also forced 2 steals. Alyssa Briggs scored 11 points to tie her St. George’s counterpart Ansley Potter, for the game high. Briggs also stole 2 balls, and hit the glass with 4 rebounds. Maria Knezek scored her field goal in dramatic fashion, in one of her patented swipe and finish plays in the second quarter. Despite limited time due to the foul situation, Knezek still ground out 8 steals against some quality ball handlers. She also claimed 1 rebound at each end of the court.