Though one 15-point rally attempt was stuffed, the second did the job, and the Lady Wildcats later fought through adversity one final time when it overcame a buzzer-beater to win in overtime, 69-66, over Morgan County on Saturday at Savannah State in the quarterfinals of the Class AA state tournament.
“ ‘We can do this. We can’t back down now – we’ve come too far,’ ” Laney’s Simone Smith remembers thinking.
After Morgan County made five first-half 3s, the Lady Wildcats had to surge back from a 15-point hole twice.
Quiet for the first half, Laney’s Katice Williams scored all 15 of her points after halftime. She was there for putbacks and layups to complete transition opportunities after steals.
With Laney shutting off the inside and silencing Sade Weaver – a 19-point scorer with only four points coming after the first half – the Lady Wildcats embarked on a 10-2 run and then a 24-5 run in the second half.
Morgan County’s Andrea Benford shut down the first comeback bid, scoring inside three times in a hurry.
But Laney battled and burst free for the larger run, with Jermeka Gibson’s 3-pointer giving Laney the lead at 53-52.
“We came back,” Laney coach Otis Smart said. “It’s always about runs, and it definitely was the run right there.”
The Lady Wildcats tried to stretch the advantage, but Weaver and Tweety Hawkins answered Laney scores a combined four times in the fourth quarter.
Then, after Laney had a 66-64 lead, the Lady Bulldogs’ Kiara Smith made a shot that was ruled good just before the buzzer sounded.
However, in overtime, Khadijah Cave put in an early putback to continue Laney’s dominance in the paint.
Cave had a team-high 18 points as four Laney players hit double figures.
Cave’s basket was the only field goal in overtime, as Laney held Morgan County scoreless and benefitted from the Lady Bulldogs’ 0 for 6 shooting from the free- throw line in the extra four minutes.
Both teams also took turns stealing the ball, but DeKoya Mack’s theft was the only one to lead to points. The guard hit one of two foul shots to push it to 69-66.
Morgan County still had a chance to tie, but Weaver’s 3-point attempt got stuck between the rim and backboard, giving Laney possession with 0.7 seconds remaining. Mack then caught the inbounds pass to secure the win.
“That was a little championship game,” said Smart, adding it could have given him a heart attack.