The dream season met a nightmare ending Tuesday night for the Whale Branch girls. The top-ranked Warriors suffered their only loss of the season when it mattered most, falling 40-37 in overtime to visiting Lamar.
“The plan going into the game was to do what we do best — play good defense, know where the shooters are, take good shots, be patient on offense and take control of the game,” Whale Branch coach LaToya Mack said.
The Warriors were able to do so early, but the offense faltered as the night wore on.
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Lamar won the tipoff, then instantly turned the ball over, giving the Warriors a chance to open the game up with a layup from Erin Rivers, who failed to convert the and-one. The Warriors played intense defense as the first quarter progressed, and Kynew Barnwell hit a contested 3-pointer to cap off the first quarter with an 11-4 lead.
The Silver Foxes gained momentum and turned up the intensity on the defensive end in the second quarter, holding the Warriors scoreless over the last six minutes of the quarter, but they still didn’t generate much offense. Whale Branch took an 18-9 lead into the half.
Lamar was able to control the pace and tempo of the game all night, and the Warriors had a tough time finding open looks. Barnwell got open for a deep three to open the half, extending the margin to 21-9, but Lamar’s Jashya Ham matched her triple, then caught fire as the quarter progressed. Ham scored eight points in the quarter along with six from Quashia Robinson, as the Silver Foxes closed within 28-23 going into the fourth quarter.
The Silver Foxes rallied on the offensive end in the fourth while trapping the Warriors and slowing the pace of the game. Emotion erupted from both benches and the home crowd throughout a hard-fought game, as both coaches cheered on their players and encouraged them to capitalize on every possession with points at a premium.
Barnwell scored all six of the Warriors’ points in the quarter from the foul line, and regulation ended with the score tied at 34. Whale Branch’s offensive woes continued in the extra four-minute period, though, and the Silver Foxes escaped Seabrook with the upset.
The Warriors (10-1) weren’t the only top-seeded team to fall in the first round. East Clarendon lost 67-58 to Military Magnet after a couple of early foul calls put star Talaysia Cooper in foul trouble.
By Carus Epps