When it gets to be this late in the season, don't ever count out coach Wendell Lofton and the Hephzibah Lady Rebels.
With Glenn Hills needing a victory Friday night to capture the top seed in the Region 3-AAAA tournament, Hephzibah staged its best performance of the season and whipped the Lady Spartans 53-41 in a key Region 3-AAAA matchup Friday night.
In the boys game, Glenn Hills fought off Hephzibah and kept hold of fourth place in the region standings with a 60-56 victory.
The Lady Rebels' victory snapped a 19-game Glenn Hills winning streak. Hephzibah (18-5, 10-3) remains two games behind Glenn Hills (20-2, 12-1) in the region standings. The Lady Rebels must win their next two games - with Lakeside on Tuesday and Statesboro on Feb. 9 - then hope Glenn Hills drops at least two of its final three region games to force a tie.
Friday night's game was a far cry from the last time the two schools met. Glenn Hills blistered the visiting Lady Rebels 55-40 on Jan. 2.
Hephzibah pounded the offensive boards and forced eight Glenn Hills turnovers to turn a close game into a rout.
"We got on the boards tonight," Lofton said. "I thought that was the key to the whole game. The last time we played Glenn Hills at their place, we didn't play good defense. But Glenn Hills is strong.
"I think if we had to play them again tomorrow or Tuesday night, they'd probably beat us. This was definitely the best we've played all year."
Hephzibah got 19 points from Tamara Gilyard, who dominated the offensive boards and gave the Lady Rebels several second-chance opportunities.
Lofton also got a big game from point guard Aytiya Scott, whose running layup with 2:55 in the fourth quarter gave the Lady Rebels a six-point advantage and allowed them to pull away. She finished with 12 points, while freshman Jocelyn Nelson added 10.
Hephzibah forced the Lady Spartans to shoot a paltry 23 percent (3-of-13) from the floor in the fourth quarter while outscoring them 14-6 during the final period.
"We didn't rebound," Glenn Hills coach Bernard Bowman said. "And we had too many turnovers down the stretch. You can't do that against good teams like Hephzibah."
Through the first three quarters, neither team led by more than four points. But the Lady Spartans failed to hit a basket during the final 2:13. Glenn Hills' last points, a layup from Marian Whitfield, trimmed Hephzibah's lead to 45-41. The Lady Rebels ended the game on an 8-0 run.
Lofton said he hopes his team can feed off Friday's victory as it prepares for the postseason.
"We needed this," he said. "This is where we want to be at the end of the season."
In the boys game, Hephzibah (8-15, 5-7) came up short against Glenn Hills, despite getting 28 points from Bobby Carter.
Gary Conley led the Spartans (15-7, 6-5) with 22 points, while Mario Briscoe and Brandon Clemons tossed in 12 points each.
Reach Tim Morse at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.