The Ware County girls used a late charge to force overtime and ultimately defeat Brunswick 52-50 on Tuesday at Brunswick High School.
The Lady Pirates took an 11-9 lead in the first quarter on Keya Daniels’ personal 4-0 run and held it until late in the fourth, but the Gators fought to remain within striking distance throughout the contest.
Jaliyah Howard splashed a pair of 3-pointers from the right corner in the final 30 seconds of the first half to stake Brunswick (1-2) to a 27-19 advantage at halftime. The lead began to come undone when the teams exited the locker rooms as the Lady Pirates turned the ball over on six of their first seven possessions on the second half.
Turnovers continued to plague Brunswick throughout the second half, limiting the team to 14 points in 12 minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime.
“We have to quit turning the ball over,” said Lady Pirates head coach Maria Mangram. “And it’s the same turnover every time. I’m okay with turnovers every now and then because I know games aren’t perfect, but like tonight, I told my team, ‘There’s no way a person can make you turn the ball over the same way the entire game.’
“As coaches, we make adjustments to tell them what they should or shouldn’t be doing and give them suggestions to try different passes, but we just have to stop turning the ball over. In the past, we’ve been able to play through it, and this season it’s not going to be like that. So we’re going to have to learn how to take care of the ball and cherish each possession.”
The Lady Pirates built their lead on the defensive end with Nyree Moody patrolling the paint and Daniels making life difficult for the opposing guards from her position atop the 3-2 zone.
Daniels finished with eight steals, and she forced a handful more turnovers with her pressure. The junior also scored a team-high 13 points, including a tough jumper to give Brunswick the lead with 13 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
“She’s definitely our heartbeat,” Mangram said. “She makes us go. She has energy, and she’s that way every day. At practice, she’s just like that.
“For her, I just hate that we couldn’t get it tonight because she hit the big shot to go into overtime.”
Coincidentally, Brunswick’s defensive energy helped fuel Ware County’s comeback.
Trailing 34-23 midway through the third quarter, the Gators (2-1) got into the bonus early in the second half and chipped away from the deficit at the free throw line.
Ware shot 16 free throws after halftime, sinking 11, compared to four makes on nine attempts from the charity stripe by Brunswick. The disparity was more staggering in overtime where the Gators outshot the Lady Pirates six free throws to none.
“We have to move our feet better,” Mangram said. “We have to slide without touching, just play good, solid defense. We’ve got to go back to the old school defensive drills, just learning to move your feet a little better, a little quicker. Keeping the girl in front of you, not necessarily reaching all the time, and just playing good, solid defense.”
Ware County tied the game at 40 with 2:24 remaining in the fourth quarter and the teams went back and fourth until overtime.
The Gators took their first lead since the first quarter on a basket early in the period, and after Makila Brown’s jumper from the elbow tied the game at 50 with 22 seconds remaining, Ware stepped to the free throw line once again and sank two shots to earn the victory.
BHS boys 75
The Pirates (3-0) rode a 26-0 run spanning nearly eight minutes of game time between the first and second quarter to a big win Tuesday against the Gators (1-2).
The teams went back and forth throughout most of the first quarter with Ware County taking an 18-16 lead with 2:21 remaining in the period. The Gators wouldn’t score another point until more six and a half minutes into the second quarter as the Pirates built a 42-18 advantage.
Two free throws ended the run, but Brunswick entered halftime leading 44-21, and it continued to pile it on in the second half.
Freshman Joyful Hawkins led the team with 14 points and eight rebounds. Kelan Walker added 12 points and six rebounds, and Sharrod Ross chipped in nine points and six assists as the team remained undefeated this season.