The Butler coaching staff tried its best to conceal the good news from Shameka Carter.
The Butler senior was only 11 points away from 1,000 entering an important Region 3-AAAA game against Glenn Hills, but wasn't aware she was so close to the mark. It was a bit tough for her to remain oblivious when, before the game, a Butler teacher distributed congratulatory signs for the crowd to wave.
"I really had no idea until then," Carter said.
Carter hit her scoring milestone in the first half, nailed two critical layups late and scored a game-high 18 to boost Butler to a 54-47 win Friday night in a meeting of the region's top two teams. The Lady Bulldogs, who avenged their only region loss, claimed sole possession of first place in the region with three weeks left in the regular season. They won despite not scoring a field goal in the third quarter and squandering a 13-point halftime lead.
"It's wonderful, because we have been working hard for this," Butler coach Keisha Stewart said. "Even when we made mistakes, we kept working."
Ashley Watts added 16 points for Butler, which lost to Glenn Hills 44-42 on Dec. 5. Both Carter and Watts, a junior, have 1,000 career points, a milestone Carter said she had been pestering her coaches about since Watts hit the mark in December.
"I just wanted something to remember," Carter said.
The third quarter was this bad for Butler: it allowed the first 16 points, didn't make a field goal and finished with four points overall. By the end, the Bulldogs' double-digit lead was down to a single point.
It didn't matter. Butler began the final quarter on a 10-2 run, then turned back a late charge to win its seventh consecutive game.
Glenn Hills star guard Jessica Morton made a nice move into the lane with about three minutes left and back-ironed a layup that could have sliced the lead to one. Carter then used nice body control to convert two layups in 10 seconds, and the result was cemented.
"I'm just proud they were able to regroup as a team," Stewart said. "We could have easily folded, but we didn't do that. We stayed together as a team, and that's what we keep stressing: teamwork, teamwork, teamwork."
Glenn Hills raced out of halftime. With Morton smothered by a box-and-one defense the Spartans found scoring from other players and dominated the offensive glass behind Brandi Lamb (12 points). Shandrasia Sealey's second 3-pointer in 66 seconds gave the Spartans their only lead of the second half. Butler then hit four free throws in the final 56 seconds of the third quarter to move ahead for good.
"We had to win," Carter said. "If we didn't win against them, it would have basically felt like we would have fallen all the way to the bottom."
Reach Matt Middleton at (706) 823-3425 or email@example.com.