OT thriller marks end

Published 6:38 pm Monday, February 5, 2007

By By Matthew Nascone
The Escambia Academy Lady Cougars did not go down without a fight Friday night. EA may have lost 62-56 to the Jackson Lady Eagles in the first round of the AISA Class 2A Region 1 Area 1 Tournament at Sparta Academy in Evergreen, but the Lady Cougars took it to overtime.
There would have been no overtime if Heather White had not nailed two free throws with 0.4 seconds left in regulation to send the game into the extra frame.
"I know the whole team was on the bench praying for her to make those shots," EA head coach Keri Payne said. "And that was probably the most pressure she has been under on a court in her entire life, but she knocked them down and gave us a chance."
The journey to that tie began in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter as the Lady Cougars went on a 10-1 run before the quarter was three minutes old and the Jackson lead dwindled from 41-29 to 42-39.
Just two minutes later, Andrea Nall converted a layup and EA was within one point at 46-45 and one minute later Jones drained a three pointer to tie the score at 48-48. The Lady Eagles built a four-point lead again with 20 seconds left, but Alaina Arnold hit a free throw, Nall scored her second basket of the quarter, Jackson made one free throw and White was fouled with 0.4 seconds remaining.
The score was tied, 54-54, at the end of regulation after White converted both free throws, but it took heart to get there, Payne said.
"I told them not to give up on themselves and to believe in themselves," she said. "And we all dug deep into our hearts to find what we needed. And they came back in the fourth quarter strong."
And the Lady Cougars (12-10) played most of the fourth quarter and all of the overtime period without two starters. Jordan Jaye and Clare Jones fouled out in the second half and the bench for EA stepped up to the task.
"Our younger girls tried hard to pull it out," Payne said. "But we just couldn't do it."
The lead changed twice in the overtime period, but once Jackson went up 58-56, the Lady Cougars did not score again and their season was over.
But two key points in the game to Payne were the 18 turnovers in the first half and the 14 missed points on easy opportunities.
"Those missed shots killed us and we cannot turn the ball over like that and expect to win," she said. "But the girls played hard in the second half and they never gave up, which is great to see as a coach."
And the loss had nothing to do with a lack of support.
"I have to give it to the fans and the cheerleaders for supporting us when we needed it the most tonight," Payne said.
The Lady Cougars trailed for most of the game after Jackson jumped out to an early 3-2 lead in the first quarter. EA kept it close and ended the first quarter down 13-10 and Payne went with the quick lineup to open the second quarter, substituting Malori McGhee and Kayleigh Miller for starters Arnold and Morgan Dorrietty.
Jackson took a 23-18 lead into halftime and they expanded that lead to 41-29 after outscoring the Lady Cougars 18-11 in the third quarter. And the final score was 62-56 after the fourth quarter and overtime.
Jones led the scoring for EA with 23 points, Jaye added 10 points, White scored seven points, Dorrietty contributed six points, Nall had four points and Arnold and Miller added three points.
Payne said the loss was a tough one, but the girls know what they have to work on for next year and as for the seniors, it was an emotional game.
"We will still have Clare and Jordan next year and we will have some young girls who will have to step up for us," Payne said. "This was an emotional game and I enjoyed working with all of our seniors."

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