Dateline – Alpharetta, Ga. To the casual roundball fan, scoring statistics form the backbone of any game’s narrative. However, a true student of the game always looks first to the rebounding column. That statistic, almost all by itself, reveals the real storyline that drove the result. Wednesday’s re-match with the Lady Mustangs of Mill Springs Academy came down to this one, singular factor, with the visiting Lady Cougars holding the decisive advantage.
In the early going, Cottage established that MSA would only receive one shot, with all five purple jerseys blocking out the home town players. On the other end of the court, Cottage consistently crashed the boards to earn second looks at the hoop. Senior Julia Baumohl squeezed off the first post shot of the affair, and earned a trip to the foul line after tricking a MSA defender into a foul. Unfortunately both charity shots fell short, but that inauspicious start seemed to use up all of Cottage’s bad shooting luck for the balance of the quarter. Five different players got into the scoring act on a variety of shots. Natalie Yager and Emily Daugherty both nailed down jump shots from the wing, Brandy Michelle Finnell and fellow pivot mate Baumohl banged away from the post. Guard Maria Knezek finished a fast break and a dribble drive to round out the scoring. When the dust settled, Cottage claimed a 14 – 2 lead. The second quarter saw Cottage’s offensive magic dissipate, but again relentless rebounding kept the home towners at bay. Finnell and Knezek both hit foul shots (awarded after snatching offensive boards away from the Lady Mustangs), while Yager scored a put back field goal of her own. The rebounding edge allowed the team the luxury of employing some unusual lineups, including an “inverted” offense, where Yager teamed with Finnell in the post for the very first time. As the half closed, TCS extended their lead to fourteen points.
For the second half, Cottage resolved not to let up on action off the glass. Again, rebounding dominance made up for a variety of missed shots. MSA ground out six points in the third quarter, but TCS countered with seven of their own. Daugherty scored another jumper in the flow of the offensive, Finnell tipped home another put back, and Alex Nebel put an exclamation point on it all with a three point rainbow from the top of the arc. Again, in the fourth quarter Cottage cobbled together some rarely seen player combinations. The TCS backcourt carried the scoring load in the fourth, ringing up all six of their team’s points. When the buzzer sounded, TCs broke through the 30 point barrier for the second time in three games , claiming a 31 – 13 win.
Julia Baumohl wiped the glass clean for 3 offensive and 4 defensive rebounds, while adding 2 steals. Baumohl scored all 4 of her points in the opening frame, as she jump started the Lady Cougars’ offensive attack.
Tracy Li logged her most minutes of the season. Although Li did not score in this contest, she performed like Goliath on the offensive glass, grabbing 10 offensive boards. Li also chalked up 2 defensive rebounds, and 1 steal.
Filling her dependable sixth man role, Emily Daugherty swung between the perimeter and the post over the course of the game. She scored 4 points, passed for 2 assists, forced 2 steals, and hit the glass for 4 rebounds (2 on each end of the court). Daugherty also recorded the team’s only blocked shot of the night, an emphatic stuff of a driving Mustang’s attempted layup.
Middle School players Hannah Katz and Finley Love both received playing time at the guard spots. While neither player scored on the evening, both squeezed off sound shots, while helping to lock down the perimeter. Love did force a steal.
Maxine Moore and Analin Merchant also spelled the starters. Merchant jumped into the swing positon as she took over for the post, while also sniping away from the perimeter. Merchant rounded up a defensive rebound, and completed a sharp outlet pass to trigger as fast break. Moore followed up a TCS miss, and scooped up the offensive rebound.
Again, Alex Nebel, Maria Knezek, and Natalie Yager provided the triple headed guard play. Nebel consistently followed up her teammates’ misses with 2 boards, while scoring 3 points on the strength of her trifecta. Nebel also ran the point for large stretches of the second half. Maria Knezek also gained 4 offensive boards, found open teammates for 2 assists, while ball hawking her way to 6 steals. On the scoring side of the ledger, Knezek slashed her way to 7 points. Yager turned in a most versatile effort, as she played literally every position in the TCS scheme over the course of the game. She led the way with 8 points, tallied 8 steals, found open players for 3 assists, while also grabbing 7 rebounds (including 4 offensive).
In the perhaps the most intriguing stat line of the game, Brandy Michelle Finnell commanded her way to an eye popping 18 rebounds, in relatively limited playing time. Finnell came up particularly large on the offensive end, hauling in 10. Finnell also scored 5 points, knocked away 2 steals, and passed for 2 assists.