RIVERDALE, Ga. — Making its second consecutive appearance in the Class AAA state tournament, Drew High aimed to advance deep and contend for the championship in only its second season as a varsity program.
Hephzibah had other plans. The Lady Rebels rallied in the fourth quarter on Friday night and edged the Lady Titans 66-65 in the opening round.
Hephzibah improves to 18-7 while Drew ends its season at 23-51.
The Lady Rebels trailed 55-50 at the end of the third quarter, and trailed twice by as many as nine points. However, Shanice Williams scored on a putback and Tiffani Harrison converted two free throws with seven seconds remaining in the third quarter to trim the Lady Titans’ lead to five points.
Behind the strong play of senior wing Precious Person, Drew extended its lead early in the fourth quarter. Person converted a jumper from the free-throw line, and her 3-point play at the 4:16 mark gave the Lady Titans a 62-55 lead. But Hephzibah responded with a big 9-0 run.
Consecutive 3-point baskets by Daeundra Jordan and Harrison put Hephzibah ahead by two. Harrison’s 3-point basket put Hephzibah up 64-62 with 1:38 remaining.
Drew tied the game on putback with Jecoya Knowles at the 1:05 mark following a Hephzibah turnover. But the Lady Rebels regained the lead on a baseline jumper by Jordan with 29 seconds remaining.
Person was fouled with nine seconds remaining, giving Drew the chance to tie the game. She made the first free throw, but missed the second.
The Lady Titans fouled Harrison with six seconds remaining, but she missed the front end of the 1-and-1, giving Drew one last chance.
Person caught the pass from Lakyha Sims, but missed an off-balance baseline jumper as time expired.
Hephizbah trailed early in each quarter, only to come back late and pressure Drew.
“Getting those shots down the stretch was very critical,” Hephzibah coach Wendell Lofton said. “What a great game it was, and we didn’t give up. Tiffani (Harrison) simply played a great game, and that wing (Person) for them is tremendous.”
The defeat marked the end of a decorated career for the 6-foot-2 Person, who paced Drew with 24 points, and will continue her career at Rutgers. Shaleya Winfrey scored 16 points for the Lady Titans, followed by Sims with 15 points.
“(Person) is one of a kind,” Drew coach Candence Jackson said. “She is such a leader with tremendous athleticism and will be very hard to replace.”
In addition to Harrison’s 27 points, Williams scored 12 points and Queen Glenn had 10 points for Hephzibah.