Building on what has become a big, local rivalry, First Presbyterian Christian Academy’s girls and boys teams eked out overtime wins Friday during two heated battles against Faith Baptist Christian Academy in Ludowici.
Lady Highlanders 58,
Lady Crusaders 57
The crowd was on its feet for most of the game as the girls traded basket for basket. The Lady Highlanders were trailing 48-47 with 1:37 left in regulation. They managed to pull ahead by four, but Lady Crusaders Sam Brannen hit 2 at the line and Brit Swope dropped in a layup to end the game tied at 51.
Fans, packing bleachers on both sides of the gym, roared as FPCA pulled ahead by 2 only to have the Crusaders tie it again. Lady Highlander Briana Reece hit a shot to put them ahead and Shaquoia Crockett sank one at the line. Alize Roberts and Tera Aslton each got a layup.
Battling back, Lady Crusader Arlyn Brannen scored 2, Sam Brannen added 2 and Ashley Bloder added 2, but they were 1 short of a tie. The Lady ’Landers went home with their second win against the Ludowici girls this season.
FPCA coach Rosby Frasier said it was another tough victory in a much-anticipated rematch.
"The girls played hard and of course with the overtime the girls were running hard and their legs were giving out on them," Frasier said. "The key was they played together and we were able to pull it out."
Lady Crusaders’ coach Dominick Scopino said his team did well, but was hurt by foul trouble."I told my girls at the end of the game we need to get in shape and keep working," he said. "We need to play smarter and injuries have hurt us so we have to get passed that bug." Scopino said two key scorers had to sit out to heal injuries ahead of their conference games beginning next week. The Crusaders are 7-6 overall and second in their Georgia Christian Athletic Association 2-A region.
"We have a really good chance to win state," he said.
It started somewhat flat, both teams missing several attempts at the easy inside layups, and slowly intensified by trading steals, layups and trey shots. The games’ tempo quickly gained pace building to the crescendo of a three point hit by Crusader Jaquez Motley tying the game at 71 and forcing overtime keeping the spectators on their feet for four more minutes. The Crusaders were looking to avenge a loss at St. James in December where the Highlanders edged out an 89-75 win at home.
But when the overtime dust settled from the stands the Crusaders had scored only two points while the Highlanders went on a 12 point run, primarily due to foul trouble.
"We actually had the game won in regulation but we couldn’t stand success at that point so we gave it back to them," Highlander coach David Jones said.
The Highlanders held a 69-65 lead with 16 left in regulation. Though Jones’ team added a layup the Crusaders tossed in two trey shots, including Motley’s buzzer hit to tie the game.
"We did a good job to get back in the game towards the end," Crusaders coach Jared Sellars said. "We were glad they let us hit those three’s to come back in. But in overtime Jaquez Motley fouled out in thirty seconds and then Tracey Jester fouled in within a minute. We lost two of our leading scorers, one of our leading rebounders and all of our penetration."
Sellars said the Highlanders did a good job trapping them defensively and said, "The foul trouble is what really allowed the game to stretch away, but we were also playing a good, team, too and I’m not going to take that away from them."
"You would always like to take credit but he was in a bit more foul trouble with some of his ball handlers than we were," Jones said. "When he lost his ball handlers, that allowed us to do some things we needed to do."
Sellars said the game was a good challenge in preparing his squad for another state title run and he said he hopes the Highlanders and his Crusaders both bring home their respective state titles.
Highlanders leading scorers: Jordan Johnson 26, DJ Felder 22, AJ Ansley 18
Faith Baptist leading scorers: Tracey Jester 25, Jaquez Motley 15, JJ Frazier 14