Jefferson County coach George Samples is very familiar with the Laney Lady Wildcats' ability to run the floor. He's also familiar with their ability to press.
Heading into Friday night's Region 3-AAA battle at the Lucy Laney gym, Samples figured his once-beaten Lady Warriors would rise to the occasion. Instead, Jefferson County suffered a 68-48 defeat at the hands of Laney.
In the boys game, Jefferson County and Laney locked up in one of the more exciting games of the season. After the Warriors had tied the game 61 on Terrance Lewis' putback with nine seconds left, the game appeared destined for overtime.
However, Nick Figgs passed to a wide-open Cory Tyler, who buried a base-line jumper from the left wing with two seconds left to send the Wildcats to a 63-61 victory.
The loss spoiled two solid performances from both Arkilleous Lewis and Terrance Lewis, who tossed in 17 and 18 points, respectively, for the Warriors.
Friday night's game for the Lady Warriors was its first since Dec. 16, and Samples said that was part of the reason for his team's sluggishness.
"I was concerned about their ability to press and their ability to score points," Samples said of the Lady Wildcats. "We knew they'd been scoring a lot of points, and we felt that if their game was pressing from end to end, we'd match up a little better than we did."
Jefferson County (6-2 overall, 1-1 Region 3-AAA) matched up perfectly with Laney for the first three minutes of the game. However, when Nafeesah Ameen drilled a basket from the right wing to give the Lady Wildcats a 5-4 lead, Jefferson County never saw the lead again.
Instead of a basketball game, it looked more like a track meet - at least on Laney's side of the court. The Lady Wildcats used their up-tempo offense to build a 20-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.
As if trying to slow down Laney's run-and-gun offense wasn't enough of a challenge, the Lady Warriors also had to figure out a way to overcome Laney's stiff press.
Jefferson County opened the second quarter with a 3-point basket from Taliah Roberts, then after a Laney turnover, Jefferson County's Krystin Kelly converted a three-point play to trim the lead to 20-16 with 5:25 left in the first half.
But Shakethia Brown, making her first appearance since bruising a knee earlier this year, drained a jump shot, then Ameen buried a 3-pointer to push the lead back to nine points at 25-16. Roberts answered with a short jumper to make 25-18 with 4:14 left in the first half.
However, Laney closed the quarter on a 9-2 run to build a 36-20 halftime advantage. Jefferson never saw its deficit fall below 10 points the rest of the game.
"We tried to put a lot of pressure on them early and at the same time, keep ourselves out of foul trouble," said Laney girls coach Otis Smart, whose team improved to 11-3 overall and 3-0 in Region 3-AAA.
"We got into a running game and were able to sub a lot of people. I was proud of the victory, but we've still got a long way to go."
Part of the Lady Wildcats' offensive outburst in the second quarter was because of junior Sheena Freeman, who pumped in nine of 31 points in the second quarter.
The region schedule is still young, but Samples says Laney might be the team to beat.
"I tell you what ... (Laney) is going to be tough to beat in this region," he said.
Reach Tim Morse at (706) 823-3216.
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