On Wednesday night, Hephzibah's Aarika Judge was determined not be the next victim.
The senior guard torched the Lady Wildcats for 32 points, including 21 in the second half, to help rally the Lady Rebels to a 61-58 win in the championship game of the Holiday Roundball Classic at Josey High.
Hephzibah (10-2) fell behind by 11 after intermission before Judge took over the point guard duties and then the game. The Lady Rebels began running isolation plays for Judge, leading to her scoring eight of the team's next 10 points.
"I'm a senior, that's what I've got to do," Judge said. "This is my team this year so I was just helping us hold it together."
Along with Judge's scoring output, the Lady Rebels' rebounding picked up after halftime. The smaller Hephzibah squad, which boasts only one player over 6-feet tall, struggled early with Laney forwards Chelsea Maultsby and Ciara Morris.
"In the first half, we knew we were beating ourselves by letting them get a lot of offensive rebounds," Judge said. "So we went into the locker room and told ourselves that we've got to work hard and bust our butts to get rebounds and that's what we came out and did."
After withstanding a barrage of 3-pointers in the first quarter, Laney appeared to seize control of the game at the end of the second quarter, capping the period off with 28-foot three banked in by Dekoya Mack as time expired to put the Lady Wildcats up 37-30.
Laney (9-1) held onto the lead throughout the third quarter, taking a five-point advantage into the fourth.
Hephzibah would take its first lead since early in the second quarter when Tiffani Harrison, who finished with 12 points, hit a layup with 5:55 remaining.
The lead changed six times in the final minutes before Harrison's jumper with 48.6 remaining put them up for good. Judge added a pair of free throws, part of her 13 points in the fourth, with 12.2 left to seal it.
"We haven't played this well in quite some time. We really haven't," said Hephzibah coach Wendell Lofton. "It's going to be a good Christmas for me."
Reach Joey Jones at (706) 823-3304 or firstname.lastname@example.org