Daeundra Jordan knew Hephzibah needed its freshmen to contribute if the season would go anywhere.
For her, there’s no better moment than the state playoffs.
“I knew there would be a time to step up,” Jordan said. “We’ve started to play together.”
Jordan, one of six freshmen on the roster, exploded for 16 points in the Hephzibah girls basketball team’s 61-56 home win on Tuesday against Dougherty, a victory that placed the Lady Rebels in the Class AAA state quarterfinals.
Hephzibah now heads to Georgia College & State to meet Westside for a place in the semifinals. They play at 7 p.m. Saturday and have yet to face one another this season.
With Washington County also in the quarterfinals, there will be an Augusta-area flavor in Milledgeville. Three Region 3-AAA squads are in the final eight; No other region in Class AAA has more than one representative in the quarterfinals.
Hephzibah’s advancement came after coach Wendell Lofton remembers seeing a team needing maturity and less nervousness.
“I didn’t envision being here in the elite eight,” said Lofton, sharing his preseason thoughts.
But the coach kept saying his team was going to grow, and, sure enough, as Hephzibah went deeper into the season, it improved.
The Lady Rebels started to swing the ball behind the ball-handling leadership of freshman point guard Shashana Miller.
Trust grew as all five players on the floor started touching the ball and the Lady Rebels didn’t need to have the ball in Tiffani Harrison’s hands all the time – not that Harrison has stopped leading the way.
On Tuesday, the senior torched the Lady Trojans for 18 first-half points.
But as Dougherty stormed back to make it a five-point game, junior Rachel Armenta grabbed key rebounds, senior Queen Glenn hit a pair of late foul shots and freshmen like Renee Armenta and Jordan received playing time in crucial moments.
“Our freshmen have really stepped it up,” Harrison said. “We couldn’t be here without them.”