After suffering their first region loss of the year last Saturday, the White County Lady Warriors had three days to get ready to take on one of the biggest tasks of the season with a trip to Dahlonega Tuesday to take on Lumpkin County, the new No. 1 team in the latest Class AAA state poll.
Safe to say, the Lady Warriors were up to the task as they knocked the Lady Indians off the top of the state poll with a 58-57 overtime win.
The win keeps the Lady Warriors near the top of the region standings, trailing only Gilmer County, which heads into the weekend with a 5-0, with WCHS in second place at 5-1. The win was also the team's first over Lumpkin County in exactly two years, with the last win coming Jan. 12, 2019.
“The girls were up for this game anyway, because we hadn't beaten them in two years,” WCHS head coach Jarvis Davenport said. “On top of that it was the next game on the schedule which made it extremely important. Add to they were No. 1 in the state. It was just a huge opportunity for us. It was a great atmosphere. They are are great basketball team. We got a couple of good bounces tonight and we took advantage of it.”
With things tied 50-50 after four quarters, the Lady Indians opened overtime with a 6-0 run and looked ready to pull away. Mary Mullinax scored 11 seconds into the extra period, and then Lexi Pierce scored in transition for a 54-50 lead. Averie Jones went end-to-end off an inbounds play, scoring on a left-handed layup for a 56-50 lead with 2:40 left on the clock.
The Lady Warriors finally got on the board with a basket from Caitlyn Gailey that was set up by an offensive rebound from Naomi Roberts, and then Gaily came up with a steal and found Dasha Cannon for layup to cut the deficit to 56-54 with 1:59 on the clock.
After a handful of turnovers and missed shots by both teams, the Lady Warriors tied things up with 40 seconds left when Roberts threaded a pass from free throw line into the low post to Maddie Futch, who finished off the play with a layup.
With under 20 seconds left, Roberts blocked a Mullinax shot, but the Lady Warriors couldn't take the lead, missing a shot in the lane. Pierce snagged the rebound for the Lady Indians and was fouled with 7.7 seconds on the clock. Pierce missed the front end of the a 1-and-1 situation, Futch grabbed the rebound and got the ball to Roberts mid court. Roberts took a couple of dribbles up the sideline and was fouled with 3.5 seconds. Then things got really interesting.
White County called a timeout before Roberts stepped to the line for two free throws, but it turned out the Lady Warriors were out of time outs, resulting in a technical foul.
Because of the technical foul, Roberts stepped to the free throw line with no one else on that end of the court. She calmly drained the first shot to give the Warriors the lead, and the found the bottom of the net on second shot for a 58-56 lead.
Averie Jones stepped to the free throw line on the other end to take the two free throws. She canned the first one, but her second shot came up just short. With WCHS up 58-57, the Lady Indians still had a chance because they retained possession due to the technical foul. Caldwell took the inbounds pass near half court, but could only get off a last-second jump shot from 30-feet that came up short, setting off a celebration on Lady Warriors' bench.
“Naomi kind of bailed me out a little bit,” Davenport said. “I thought I had another timeout, but they told me I had called one called one earlier and I didn't remember I had called it. She made two huge free throws. She has worked extremely hard, probably harder than anybody else in the program, and it shows. Every game since the beginning of the year, she has gotten better and better. She's developing more and more confidence. She still has things to work on, but she's going to be a really good player.”
The Lady Warriors pushed the lead to seven points in the opening minutes of the third quarter on baskets by Cannon and Futch. WCHS pushed the lead to 36-27 with 3:30 left in the quarter when Futch scored off a pass from Claire Beckman, but Mullinax scored scored six points as Lumpkin pulled within two at 36-34. Roberts dropped home two free throws, but Jones scored twice in the final 30 seconds to cut White's lead to 40-38 heading into the fourth quarter.
Lumpkin took the lead early in the fourth quarter on a free throw from Lexi Pierce and a basket from Mullinax for a 41-40 advantage.
A minute later, Caldwell scored on drive for a 43-40 advantage. Gailey scored to cut the deficit to one, but Davenport drained a 3-pointer to up Lumpkin's lead to 46-42 with 4:16 left in the game.
Roberts scored with 3:45, but Jones answered with a 3-pointer to keep Lumpkin ahead at 49-45.
With 2:51 left, Davenport, the team's senior leader who has signed with the University of North Georgia, picked up her fifth foul on a scramble for the ball. Davenport's final foul forced LCHS head coach David Dowse to go to a bench player for the first time in the game.
Futch had a free throw to make it 49-46, and Roberts scored on a runner in the middle of the lane to make it 49-48 with 2:07 left on the clock. Lumpkin missed several scoring opportunities down the stretch. Cannon tied things up with 1:15 left in the regulation, canning a free throw, then with 47.6 seconds left, Caldwell made a free throw for a 50-49 lead.
A Lumpkin turnover gave the Lady Warriors the ball with 34 seconds on the clock. Futch was fouled on an inbounds play and converted the a free throw to tie things up at 50-50. The Lady Warriors managed to get off a shot in the final second of regulation, but a long 3-point shot came up short.
Roberts led the way with 23 points, including 13 in the first half, She converted her final four free throw attempts, including the pair in overtime. Cannon had a stellar all-around game, scoring 14 points, and leading the defensive effort with several steals and deflections. Futch had 11 points, and Gailey added 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Mullinax and Jones each had 15 points for the Lady Indians, with Pierce scoring 11 points.
Davenport said the win over Lumpkin was important, but it doesn't make the final stretch of the season any easier. The Lady Warriors start the second tour through the region Friday with a home matchup against Dawson County, a team that has vastly improved since the two teams met in early December.
“North Hall is a scary team as well; this is a tough region,” Davenport said. “Dawson is another good team that is playing well and we have them on Friday. Then I have to turn around and play Gilmer again next Tuesday, and then we play North Hall next Friday. That's a tough stretch of game, but we focus on trying to win one game at a time. That's what we did today; we'll try to do it again on Friday. Dawson is a scary team; they play hard and shoot the ball really well,” Davenport. “Coach (Eric) Herrick does a really good job. You have to go put in 32 hard minutes against them. They just aren't going to let you win.”
The Lady Warriors dropped a 66-55 decision last Saturday to Gilmer County, suffering their first region loss of the season.
The Lady Warriors had to deal with some foul trouble issues the first half, and then Gilmer County used a 36-26 run in the second half to put WCHS away.
Futch had 15 points in the loss and Roberts scored 11 points. Gailey had eight points, Chesnee Freeman scored five points, and Cannon added four points. Makenna Moose and Weaver each had three points, and Maci Shelnut, Kendyl Cantrell and Beckman each scored four points.