Dateline – Roswell, Ga. In a game full of surges, reversals, and unexpected plot twists, the Lady Warriors of Wilson Academy escaped the Cougar Center with the narrowest of victories – outlasting the home towners by a score of 45 – 44.
Following the template set in the season opener, both teams set the defensive tenor early while also exhibiting signs of nerves on the offensive side of the ball. Lady Warriors offensive standout J. Dixon rang up the first hoop of the evening, but highly balanced scoring by the Cougars allowed Cottage to close out the first quarter with a 9 – 8 advantage. During that period, seniors Maria Knezek and Shakira Wazeerud –Din connected of field goals; while Middle Schooler Alyssa Briggs knocked down a bucket and a free throw; and newcomer Emmi Dillehay came off the bench to muscle home a score.
The second frame witnessed one of the most offensively proficient eight minute bursts of recent memory. The Lady Cougars again shut down everyone else on the visitors roster NOT named J. Dixon, and used a flurry of turnovers to force the issue on their end of the court. As the dust settled, Knezek emerged as the main beneficiary, pumping in 9 of her team’s 17 points, en route to a 26 – 14 halftime respite.
Before allowing Cottage to get too comfortable with the lead, the Lady Warriors unleashed an aggressive full court press. The renewed pressure did succeed in forcing some TCS turnovers, allowing J. Dixon to get into a dangerously effective offensive groove, driving the ball home for 13 of her team’s 15 third quarter point production. To their credit, the Lady Cougars counterpunched their way to 9 points of their own, allowing them to escape with a six point advantage.
The last eight minutes of game time seemed to pack in a lifetime worth of memories. Frankly the white hot intensity of the action, coupled with the whirl of adjustments made on the fly, and the endless roll of improbable plays conspire to make it impossible for this writer to pull out a coherent narrative thread. J. Dixon continued her offensive assault, blazing her way to 11 clutch fourth quarter points. In the late going, Dixon found a seam, drove the lane, only to have the “Wizard of Waz” step up to cleanly block the shot, and recover the loose ball. Dillehay patrolled the boards to grant her team some extra looks at the hoop, while Knezek and Briggs pulled out a couple of big steals. On the Lady Cougar’s final scoring sequence, Alex Nebel chased down her own miss to control the rebound, and promptly drew the foul. Nebel drained one of the two foul shots to knot up the game. Following Wazeerud-Din’s disqualifying fifth foul, the Cougars prepared for one last stand. Unfortunately, Wilson recovered possession of the ball and drove the ball into the paint, where M. Lanier drew a foul with only 6 ticks left on the clock. She also connected on one of the two freebies, pushing her team to a one point advantage. The inbound play managed to advance the ball just past halfcourt, but not efficiently enough to squeeze off a makeable last shot, allowing the Lady Warriors to walk away with a one point issue.
The TCS attack received a needed boost from the bench. Sixth man Emmi Rose Dillehay pressed her fingerprints all over the game with a 7 rebounds, 2 steals, and 4 point performance, before fouling out early in the fourth quarter. Alex Nebel also came up big, also swinging between the perimeter and the post, while collecting 7 boards, 1 steal, and 1 point. A dizzying array of players filled in at the guard spot in order to keep fresh legs in the game. Veteran Maxine Moore held down the perimeter duties in the second quarter. Middle schoolers Finley Love (1 rebound), Hannah Katz, Eleanor Gaffneystone, and Lillian Travis all logged minutes in the first half. Malia Richards found court time in the third stanza.
The frontcourt effort began with the determined efforts of starters Emma Altermatt and Shakirah Wazeerud-Din. Altermatt started both halves, and then took the team down the stretch run after her teammate’s disqualification in the fourth quarter. Wazeerud-Din again put together another dandy stat line. Shaking off an illness, the senior center bossed the boards for 15 ‘bounds, 6 from the offensive end. She also scores 8 points, handed out 2 assists, stole 2 balls, and rejected 4 shots. Leighton Braglia answered the call to spot the starters in both halves. She ran the floor well, and helped keep the paint locked down.
The starting backcourt played a yeoman’s game: playing big minutes, coming up with huge plays, and continually finding answers to the Lady Warrior’s challenges. Anna Mills made the first start of her TCS career. She scored her first hoop, a conventional two pointer in the furious third quarter, while also attacking the boards for a balanced 8 rebounds (4 on each end of the court), along with 3 steals. Alysa Briggs handled a number of duties, from running the point, inbounding, and marking up on J. Dixon. About the only thing that Briggs failed to do was volunteer in Concessions at halftime to push popcorn and hot dogs. She ended the night with 12 points, 4 rebounds (3 offensive), 2 assists, and 2 steals. Maria Knezek pulled an encore on her thief act, stealing the ball 11 times, hitting the boards 6 times (5 offensive), dishing for 2 assists, and tallying a team high 17 points.
The road does not get any easier, as the Lady Cougars will play host to GISA power Oak Mountain on Tuesday 11/5.