Dateline- Alpharetta, Ga:
On Wednesday afternoon the Lady Cougars and the Lady Panthers of Atlanta Area School played for the 2019 AAC Championship. Atlanta Area School entered the tournament as the number one seed and as defending champions, while the third seeded Lady Cougars advanced to the final with a first round upset of The Howard School. Despite all of the storylines associated with this contest, everyone knew that the outcome collapsed down to one factor, the pace. Historically, and especially true this season, AAS thrives on fastbreak basketball, and wants the game played at a 76 rpm tempo (kids check with your parents to understand the record reference). In contrast, the Lady Cougars perform at their best in the halfcourt game. Whichever team succeeded in imposing their style of play would in all likelihood dictate the outcome. On this particular night, the pace, and the game, belonged to Lady Panthers.
The game started under auspicious conditions for the visiting Cottage squad, as each time spent the first few minutes probing their opponents. AAS did score on their inaugural possession, as Lexi Stuthers-Egleston banked home her first field goal of the game. After an exchange of fruitless possessions, Cottage tied up the game, as Natalie Yager fed fellow senior Brandy Michelle Finnell in the high post. Finnell’s turnaround jumper banked home. Stuthers-Egleston promptly retailed with a jump shot of her own, and followed two possessions later with a three point field goal. Her teammate, and unanimous tournament MVP Tatiana Malone then stole the inbounds pass and laid home another basket to claim a 9 – 2 lead. Realizing the gravity of the situation, the Lady Cougars carefully executed their offense. Yager delivered a laser guided pass to her team’s favorite distance marksman, Alex Nebel, who nonchalantly dialed up a three pointer. Unfortunately, the Panthers ended the period by getting out on the break to close out the first frame with a 16 – 5 lead.
The second quarter proved Cottage’s best executed, as they entirely changed the pacing of the game. Struthers-Egleston, who torched the nets for 11 first quarter points, found herself shut down for the full eight minutes, while her high scoring teammate Malone was held to 4 points. For the period, each team only scored 6 points apiece. Cottage featured balanced scoring as a Yager jump shot, a Maria Knezek stop and pop, and a patented Shakirah Wazeerud-Din post move accounted for the scoring output.
Emerging from a halftime pow-wow, held surrealistically enough in the art wing of the MSA gym, the Lady Cougars looked to cut into their eleven point deficit in hopes of staging a comeback win. Atlanta Area came out with both barrels blazing as their guard tandem combined for all of their team’s 16 third period points. Cottage struggled from the field, and the missed shots became fodder for the AAS fastbreak attack. Knezek hit a foul shot, Yager canned another jumper, and sixth sensation Emily Daugherty connected on a learner from inside the paint. In the final stanza, AAS succeeded in turning the contest into a glorified track meet, as the pace reached a frantic level. Struthers-Egleston pumped in 14 of her game high 34 points in those last eight minutes en route to a 61 – 25 victory. Cottage’s best answer in the last period came in the person of Finnell, who worked the high post to pump in 5 fourth quarter points.
Although the season ended in a loss, the Lady Cougars blazed a trail that no TCS basketball squad ever traveled before. Making their first ever championship appearance, beating The Howard School for the first time in years, gaining a season sweep against an GISA opponent (Al Falah), claiming 3 out of conference wins in a season, and forcing a public high school into a game decided on the last possession, all provide a new standard that future teams can aspire to. The coaching staff and players would like to thank the parents, families, and staff who provided us with so much support throughout our season, and especially as the team made its playoff push.
Sixth man Emily Daugherty scored 3 points, forced two steals, and passed for an assist. She also attacked the boards, gaining 4 offensive, and 3 defensive caroms.
Junior Maria Knezek took on the unenviable task of shadowing the two scoring machines from the AAS backcourt. Knezek responded with 4 points of her own, thieved her way to 7 steals, and hit the boards for 4 rebounds (including one offensive).
Sixth grader Finley Love provided backcourt relief. She scooped up a defensive rebound, while getting up and down the court to match her hard charging opponents.
Alex Nebel continued her impersonation of a Golden State guard as she connected on a three pointer for the 5th consecutive game. This Stangelovian infatuation with the bomb has not been seen in a Lady Cougar since the Dinarah Rothman Era. Nebel added a foul shot for 4 points, to go along with 2 boards, and 3 steals.
Tracy Li and Shakirah Wazeerud-Din often appeared in tandem, to provide a tantalizing glimpse of next season’s potential starting frontcourt. Li ran the floor especially well to provide needed transition defense, while also hunting down 1 offensive, and 2 defensive rebounds. Wazeerud-Din recorded two rebounds (one from each backboard), and also scored 2 from the low post. Defensively, she provided some highlight reel material with an emphatic blocked shot.
The three seniors took the stage for one final time. Julia Baumohl squeezed off some of her favorite arching shots from the high post, but was unable to convert. She also grabbed an offensive, and a defensive rebound. Brandy Michelle Finnell led the way offensively with a team high 8 points. She also passed for 2 assists from her high post perch, and hit the boards for 6 offensive rebounds. Natalie Yager finished her career with a typically versatile game. She scored 4 points on id range jumpers, gathered 5 steals against an imposing backcourt, dished the ball for 2 assists, and rounded up 3 offensive and one defensive rebounds.
Thank you so much seniors for all that you gave to year team this year. . .we needed you to accomplish everything that we achieved!