Whitney JonesWhitney Jones beats the buzzer at the end of the first quarter.
Lady RebelsThe Lady Rebels got off some good shots.
Lady MustangsLady Mustangs beat their in county rivals 36-25.
As the only two seniors on the South Effingham girls basketball team, Candice Kennedy and Ciara Knowles discussed among themselves their last game against their in-county rivals.
The seniors combined for 13 points as the Lady Mustangs upended the homestanding Lady Rebels 36-25 Saturday night.
“We talked about it,” Knowles said of her and her fellow senior. We wanted to leave everything on the floor and play with no regrets. It’s a great accomplishment. We’ve been working for four years.”
Said South Effingham coach Stacey Womack: “I’m just thrilled to death. I’m very excited for the seniors. They finally got a chance to beat Effingham.”
Sierra Goldwire scored the game’s first basket, but after Iesha Reese’s 3-pointer with 6:56 to play in the first quarter, the Lady Mustangs never trailed.
In fact, the Lady Mustangs stretched the advantage to 18-4 on Kennedy’s two free throws with 2:37 to go in the half. Kyana Barber’s 3-pointer cut the gap to 18-7 before the half.
The Lady Rebels entered the game already missing starting senior guard Marie Fogle, perhaps their best defensive player. Guard Skky Bean hurt her left ankle early in the first quarter, leaving coach Nate Hayes without his starting backcourt for the final 30 minutes. He isn’t sure how long both will be out.
“We were all right until Skky got hurt,” he said. “We’re not very deep at guard. We went flat after that.”
Womack kept her team in a zone defense much of the night, knowing that Fogle — Effingham’s top outside shooting threat — wasn’t going to play.
“We went zone to try to stop their inside game and make them pass it around the perimeter,” she said. “The more time we could get them to run off the clock, the better chance we had to stay in the game. And it worked. I just kept telling them we have a chance, we have a chance to do something big.”
And the Lady Rebels’ inside game also was hurt as Barber and Shaniqua Goldwire each had three first-half fouls.
“We got into foul trouble and when you get in foul trouble, you can’t play your game,” Hayes said.
Barber brought the Lady Rebels (7-4) back within nine points with consecutive 3-pointers midway through the third quarter. But she picked up her fourth foul with 2:24 to go in the third.
“That took the wind out of us,” Hayes said.
The Lady Mustangs (5-10) also did something that’s usually done to them, their coach said— they responded to a run by making shots of their own. Katie Durrence’s steal and layup and Knowles’ steal and layup stretched the lead to 30-14. After Sierra Goldwire scored to trim the lead to 30-20 with 6:34 to go in the game, Kennedy sank two free throws and Whitney Jones nailed a 12-foot jumper for needed breathing room.
“We made shots when we needed to make them,” Womack said. “I got a little bit nervous. But when they cut it down to 10, we got a basket and we got the momentum back. We made baskets at important times.”
Barber picked up her fifth foul at the 6:09 mark and the Lady Rebels couldn’t mount another serious charge. They got back within nine points on Whitney Roberson’s baseline floater with 2:15 to go but did not score again.
“They played with a lot of energy,” Hayes said of the Lady Mustangs. “They outplayed us. We’ve got to learn how to play through adversity.”
Jones led the Lady Mustangs with nine points and Reese added eight. Kennedy, who sank 12 foul shots in Friday night’s 49-37 loss to St. Vincent’s and finished with a triple double, had seven points. Knowles and Durrence each added six. South Effingham was 7 of 13 from the free throw line after going 24 of 29 from the line against SVA.
In addition to playing a zone — either a 1-3-1 when Barber was in the game or a 2-3 when she wasn’t — the Lady Mustangs also stuck to their rebounding fundamentals.
“That was something we stressed going into this game, blocking out and getting backside rebounds,” Womack said. “We actually did it tonight. It helps. It helps you get a win. Now they’ll believe in that.”
Sierra Goldwire led all scorers with 11 points. Barber had nine points for the Lady Rebels while Roberson had four points and Shaniqua Goldwire scored one point. The Lady Rebels were held to 7 of 47 shooting from the field and were 2 of 11 from the free throw line.
For Womack’s part, she was glad to see her team finally come through as a decided underdog.
“I wanted us to beat a better team than us and we did it,” she said. “Coming out and jumping on somebody early is big. I wish we could get fired up to play every other team the way we get fired up to play Effingham.”