On senior night, the South Effingham Lady Mustangs two upperclassmen got quite a sendoff from their teammates.
Behind junior Iesha Reese’s 15 points, the Lady Mustangs rallied to beat the ECI Lady Bulldogs 43-38 Tuesday night at The Corral.
“It was a good night,” said Lady Mustangs coach Stacey Womack of the win. “I was very excited for the seniors.”
Her two seniors, Candice Kennedy and Ciara Knowles, combined for 15 points and several big plays down the stretch as the Lady Mustangs (8-16) grabbed the lead with barely more than three minutes left to play and held on.
Whitney Jones had given the Lady Mustangs a 37-36 lead with a free throw and her basket with 2:48 to go put South Effingham ahead by three points. That basket started when Candice Kennedy grabbed a loose ball along the baseline, fired ahead to Knowles and Knowles eventually found Jones wide open.
“Candice and Ciara hit some key shots in the second half and had some good looks to each other,” Womack said. “Ciara has had quite a few assists getting the ball into Candice.”
The Lady Mustangs and Lady Bulldogs were involved in a back-and-forth affair throughout the evening. Reese’s long jumper gave the Lady Mustangs a 7-4 lead, their biggest cushion of the first half, midway through the opening quarter. ECI led by as much as eight in the first half, 25-17, behind Angelika Lundy’s six second-quarter points.
But Reese, who already had canned two 3-pointers, drilled another with 26 seconds left before halftime.
“She had a fabulous night shooting,” Womack said of Reese. “She was the one who kept us alive in the first half. Thankfully, we had some other people pick up the slack.”
Womack also drew up a couple of plays to get Reese more shots, but a lot of opportunities weren’t the result of special sets.
“The main thing was running our normal offensive plays,” Womack said, “and our players recognizing the hot shooter and getting the ball to that person.”
Reese then sealed the game with two free throws with 22 seconds to play.
“She also had some clutch steals at the end,” Womack said. “She had an all-around great game.”
Lundy led the Lady Bulldogs with 12 points and Valese McAllister scored 11 points. Jones and Kennedy each had eight points for the Lady Mustangs, Knowles had four and Katie Durrence scored five. Womack also praised the work of Whitney Parrish and Gabrielle Wright off the bench.
“They did an excellent job and played their role to a T,” she said. “Gabe came up with a couple of steals and Whitney handled the ball well. Our young players are starting to learn the situational part of the game.”
Womack and the coaches had to remind the players to play with a little more emotion and not get caught up in the emotion of senior night.
“I thought we were going through the motions,” Womack said, relating she remembered thinking on her senior night about playing at home with her teammates for the last time. “We had to show that sense of urgency.”
Even though the win over ECI was a non-region victory, it still held a great deal of meaning for Womack.
“Last season, only winning three games and this season to more than double that has been a great feat for this team,” she said. “Hopefully it’s a step in the right direction for this program.”