Stacey Womack looked into her players’ eyes and knew she and her assistants had to come up with something fast.
Her South Effingham Lady Mustangs trailed in their Region 3-AAA basketball opener by three points with less than 40 seconds to play.
“We had to do a convincing job to tell them we had plenty of time left,” she said.
They had time, and in the end, they had the nerves to pull out a 36-35 victory Friday night over Richmond Hill.
The win evened the Lady Mustangs’ record at 3-3 and also equaled their win total from a year ago.
Down 35-32 after Daisha Davis’ bucket, the Lady Mustangs turned the ball back over to the Lady Wildcats on a traveling violation. But Iesha Reese got the ball back and was fouled, eventually hitting two free throws.
Then Whitney Jones got a steal at midcourt, and Candice Kennedy knocked down two free throws with 20 seconds left to put the Lady Mustangs back in front for good.
“We set up a plan of full-court man to man and we were able to make some crucial free throws,” Womack said.
The Lady Mustangs were just 3 of 10 from the line for the game before Reese and Kennedy knocked down their four clutch foul shots.
“They don’t quit on me,” Womack said of her team. “That’s the difference in this year. I can’t tell you how proud I am of them.”
Jones’ basket with 3:31 to play in the game gave South Effingham a 32-26 lead. But Richmond Hill, behind Tyler Carlson, roared back. Carlson, who had a game-high 18 points, started the Lady Wildcats’ rally with a layup. Colleen Keller put Richmond Hill in front 33-32 with 1:21 to go on a basket off a turnover. It was the Lady Wildcats’ first lead since Carlson’s three consecutive points put them in front 19-17 with 6:57 to go in the third.
Carlson had all 10 of Richmond Hill’s first-quarter points and either scored or assisted on 19 of the Lady Wildcats’ first 23 points.
“She is smooth as silk,” Womack said of Carlson. “She is awesome. She’s anything you can ask for in a guard.”
But Reese limited Carlson to eight points in the second half.
Kennedy led the Lady Mustangs with 12 points and Jones added 11. Reese scored five, Katherine Perrin had four and
Layne Graf and Katie Durrence each had two points. Graf played in Durrence’s place after the sophomore guard left the game in the second quarter with an injury and did not return.
“She did a fine job in replacing Katie,” Womack said of Graf. “That’s going to help her confidence in handling the ball.”