The win gave the Rebelettes a third-place finish in the 37th Annual Hilburn-Patterson Haralson County Invitational Tournament, something veteran coach Jane Williamson hopes will serve as a positive springboard into Region 4-AAA play next week.
“That helps a bunch. It really does. I said, ‘Would you rather be 3-7 or would you rather be 4-6?’ But then we came out and went through that little melee where it gave them the lead. But, finally, we talked them out of it. They did what they needed to do and were supposed to. And at least they learned to win a close game. That’s the first game we’ve been in a close game and won. So I was proud of them for that,” Williamson said.
Haralson County (4-6) took a 17-14 lead into the locker room after committing just seven turnovers in the opening 16 minutes and out-rebounding the Lady Braves (2-6) by a 24-12 margin during that stretch.
But to start the second half, Heard County used a 12-0 run, where it forced seven Rebelette turnovers in a matter of just a few minutes to take a 26-19 advantage, forcing Williamson to use a pair of timeouts during the span to weather the storm.
But a Madison Horton 3-pointer and a Skye Overby bucket sandwiched around a Jemeka Parks field goal for the Lady Braves pulled Haralson County back within four at 28-24 going into the final eight minutes.
The lead remained in Heard County’s favor until back-to-back buckets from Rebelette freshmen Jada Ross and Andrea Lasseigne evened the game up at 34-all with 1:24 left to go.
After both teams turned the ball over, Lasseigne had a chance to put the Rebelettes on top, but missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 48.7 seconds left. Haralson got another opportunity with 37.6 seconds remaining, though, and senior point guard Mahogany Harris delivered a pair of clutch free throws to put the Rebelettes up by two.
Heard County had a couple of looks down the stretch before the ball went out of bounds under its own bucket with 3.5 ticks remaining. On the in-bounds play, the Lady Braves found senior guard Jasmine Cook, but her potential game-winner rimmed off into the hands of Overby for Haralson to seal the win.
“We were fortunate to win, but the kids played hard. They didn’t give up. You know, we had a little fumble there where we were throwing it the wrong way — sideways and backward — and that doesn’t work. You’ve got to face the goal and attack it,” Williamson said. “But Heard County’s a good team. They’ve got real good athletes and a good coach, so you have to play well to beat them.”
Overby posted a double-double to lead the Rebelettes with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Lasseigne added six points and 12 boards. Jemeka Parks paced the Lady Braves with 17 points and five caroms.
Haralson County dominated the glass on Saturday, pulling down 41 rebounds to Heard County’s 24, a number Williamson was proud to hear following the victory.
“I’ve worked on that hard. And I think they have improved on their defense. [Friday] our offense and press break wasn’t very good, so I think we improved on that [Saturday], too,” Williamson said. “They ask me, ‘Why don’t we work on the defense?’ I say, ‘Because you did it all right. We’ll talk about it, but we’re going to work on the other two.’ So that’s what we did.”
In other consolation action from the Invitational on Saturday:
Central boys 67, Haralson County 25: In a prelude to next Friday’s Region 4-AAA opener between the same two teams, the Lions (5-5) controlled the third-place showdown from start to finish, forcing 17 first-half turnovers and running out to a 21-5 lead after the first quarter and a 45-14 advantage by the break.
“We were able to get some turnovers early and kind of build a lead and continue to stay after it defensively,” Central coach Darius Smiley said. “Haralson County, they work hard with what they do. They’re well-coached. Any time you can hold a team like that to 25 points, that’s just a credit to the kids and their effort in getting after it.”
For Haralson County coach Kenny Walker, the recipe for success wasn’t there on either side of the ball on this particular night.
“We just didn’t play very well at all. It was just a poor performance offensively and defensively. We got too far behind at halftime and couldn’t make a shot. We turned the ball over way too much and gave up too many open shots,” Walker said. “That’s just not a good formula.”
Seth Neeley scored six points with a team-high nine rebounds, while Luke Richards added six points off the bench to lead the Rebels (1-9). On the flipside, nearly everyone got in on the action for the Lions, with Kahlil Wynn and James Cochran leading the way with 13 points apiece, while Malik Strickland and Elijah Ross also reached double figures with 10 points each. Justis Ward added seven points and Blake Reese scored five points, all of which came in the first half for the two starters that rested for much of the second half.
Smiley said it was a good sign to see the quality play from the bench on Saturday, especially coming off a tough semifinal loss on Friday against an athletic South Paulding ball club.
“With the game we played [Friday] night, I didn’t want to burn anybody out. So I wanted to make sure that I got a lot of guys in and continue to keep fresh legs on the floor. And the guys that did come in, they did a good job of moving the ball around in the zone. I think we had everybody but one person score [Saturday]. So that’s a tribute to those guys sharing the ball with their teammates,” Smiley said.
The Lions are now off until Friday when they travel back to Tallapoosa to meet the Rebels again — only this one counts in the region standings.
“I told the kids that we want to come out and have a good showing [Saturday] so when we get into region play, we have that confidence and that momentum going into region play. And I think we did that [Saturday],” Smiley said.
And while Saturday’s game was one to forget for the Rebels, Walker said it’s a clean slate now that the calender flips to 2013 and a fresh start in 4-AAA play.
“We’re saying that this season is over. We start 0-0 in 2013. We’re moving forward,” Walker said.
Central girls 56, Cleburne County (Ala.) 29: In Saturday’s fifth-place game, the Lady Lions (7-4) made quick work of the visitors from across the state line, leading 22-8 after the first quarter and 32-18 at intermission.
Central got strong post play once again, with junior forward Sherae Bonner leading all scorers with 20 points, while sophomore forward Brianna Cousins added 19. Sophomore guard Wesli Simmons also reached double figures with 10 points. The Lady Lions are now off until Friday when they open Region 4-AAA play at Haralson County.
Heard County boys 54, Rockmart 45: The Braves (1-7) snapped a 30-game losing streak dating back to the 2010-11 season on Saturday in the fifth-place game to give first-year coach Philip Manning his first victory as a Brave.
Heard County placed three scorers in double figures, led by Jonathan Hunt with a 14-point effort, while Damon Pearson added 13 and Deron Swint posted 11.