Fans were on the edge of their seats Friday as the Lady Tigers trailed the visiting Windsor Forest squad by 2 late in the third quarter. The Lady Knights had hoped to upset the undefeated home team, but late fouls drawn by Lady Tiger Mariah Maternik and critical free throws clinched the Hinesville girls’ 12th win of the season. They downed the Knights 41-36.
The first half was sluggish on both ends of the court and the Lady Tigers uncharacteristically missed easy transition baskets, which kept the Lady Knights within striking distance.
With both teams trading turnovers and missing shots, the first quarter closed with BI up 10-6.
“We missed quite a few easy baskets and we did seem a little sluggish,” Lady Tiger coach Faye Baker said. “I don’t have an explanation for that. I can’t say it’s from the layoff because on Tuesday we didn’t look like that at all. The way we looked last night is what I would have expected on Tuesday.”
In the second quarter the BI girls capitalized on a few quick steals and managed a better offense, pulling ahead by 8 to close the half up 22-14.
But the Lady Knights came out of the locker room and focused on covering Lady Tiger guard Shaquoia Crockett. They also stepped up the tempo of the game, which suddenly turned into a run-and-gun scenario for the visitors as they grabbed forced passes, hit every rebound and sank shots.
Outscoring the Lady Tigers 16-8, the Lady Knights tied the game at 30 to start the final quarter.
“I was very impressed with Windsor Forest’s guards,” Baker said. “They are quick. Jade Stokes is an exceptionally athlete. She is quick and she’s strong and she is very hard to stop with the penetration. They are definitely a much improved team. I think they are one of the top teams in our region this year. You have to give credit to them also.”
The BI girls made every attempt to pull away from the Lady Knights but again, forced passes ended up in the visiting team’s hands. This time, however, the Knights missed a few easy buckets, which gave the home team an opportunity to stay within reach.
Crockett, who missed a few baskets in the first half, regrouped and hit several key layups. Maternik was on point all evening, hitting the double digits with 17 points in the game. With less than a minute left in regulation, the BI girls were up by 4.
The Knights hit two layups to tie the game and then Maternik got the ball.
“We like for Mariah to have the ball in her hands late in the game,” Baker said. “She is our best free-throw shooter. We knew they were going to try and foul to get the ball back so that is why we wanted the ball in her hands and she made the key free throws that clinched the win.”
The Knights fouled Maternik twice and she hit three of four for the 41-36 victory.
“Sometimes you just don’t have it together and we definitely didn’t have it together last night,” Baker said. “We missed a lot of easy shots that I think would have been a big difference in the game not being as close as it was. But sometimes you have nights like that.”
The coach said she knows the Lady Knights will be looking to avenge the loss when her Tiger girls visit Windsor Forest on Feb. 1.
“We know it’s going to be even tougher when we go to their place, but hopefully we’ll have a better game and we’ll execute better,” she said.
In the meantime, the girls improve to 12-0 overall and 6-0 in Region 3-AAAAA.
The BI Girls will host Islands High School on Tuesday. It’s the first game between the Tigers and the Sharks. Tip-off is at 6 p.m.
BI 10 12 8 11-41
WF 6 8 16 6-36
Lady Tigers top scorers: Shaquoia Crockett 8, Latisha Frasier 4, Mariah Maternik 17, KeAndra Frasier 3, Quintunya Chapman 9
Lady Knights top scorers: Shantel Rivers 6, Tyrika Johnson 9, Jade Stokes 7, Shavonne Brown 1, Ashley Wright 6, Ty Reynolds 5