ALBANY -- After his team nearly blew a 23-point lead earlier this week against Crisp County, Westover girls coach Lewis Smith said he did not want to see another meltdown.
Well, on Friday, it almost happened again.
Against rival Dougherty, the Lady Trojans rallied from a 16-2 deficit and got within, 38-27, late in the third quarter. But then the momentum shifted back to Westover after sophomore Ieshia Young sank a 3-pointer, setting the tone for a dominating fourth quarter and 57-32 victory.
"This is a big win because we beat a great defensive team," Smith said. "We wanted to answer with a good defensive effort of our own and score some points."
No points, however, were bigger than Young''s trey
"That was just huge," Smith said. "We needed something because we went through five minutes in the third quarter not playing good basketball."
The irony in that shot, however, was that Young originally thought about driving the lane instead of attempting the 3-pointer.
"I heard everybody yelling from the bench that I should try the shot," Young said. "I drilled it and it was an adrenaline rush."
Westover's offensive rush occurred during the first quarter when it did not even allow a basket. Dougherty's only first-quarter points were free throws scored by Jasmine Lavant and LaKanndra Beeks. Westover, meanwhile, forced 14 first-quarter turnovers that led to easy baskets en route to the huge lead.
"That was a big jumpstart to the game,' said Westover sophomore Dytieshia Dunson, who was the team's second-leading scorer Friday with 13 points, followed by Cessily Colwell with 11. "We're out there trying to prove we're a good team."
The Lady Patriots, who are ranked third in The Herald's Top 5, succeeded on that before halftime, even building its second-quarter lead to, 26-7, which was capped by a 3-pointer by Kahler Fletcher. Dougherty's Jessica Roberts, who finished with 10 points, helped lead the third quarter comeback that brought the Lady Trojans within nine when Terrianna Martin scored on a putback.
"I was very pleased with the way we came out in the third quarter," said Douhgerty coach Charlene Jackson, whose team is fifth in The Herald's poll. "They jumped on us and it was tough to rebound from the first half. We must keep working to get better each day."
WESTOVER BOYS HOLD OFF DOUGHERTY:
ALBANY -- Westover's boys did exactly what coach Dallis Smith worried about, allowing Dougherty to have a chance to win in the fourth quarter.
The Trojans appeared primed to make a charge after freshman Joshua Lewis sank a 3-pointer to move his team within, 50-46, with 3:13 left. The Patriots' Malcolm Sapp, however, answered with a trey of his own that kept the momentum on the Patriots' side as they won, 63-54, Friday night.
"I'll take it," Smith sighed.
Smith, whose team is ranked No. 2 in The Herald's prep poll, said Sapp's basket was one of the game's biggest.
"That was huge because we were playing in (Dougherty's) place, and when (Lewis) made a 3-pointer like that, those are hard to bounce back from," Smith said. "(Sapp's trey) was a turning point."
Westover, however, made its biggest mark at the foul line, making 20-of-24 attempts. Down the stretch, those were as big as Sapp's 3-pointer. On a night like Friday, when four Westover starters scored in double figures, Westover needed every foul shot. Sapp finished with 16 points, followed by Onochie Ochie with 14, Chris Wheeler with 12 and Shevren Keaton with 11.
Dougherty actually moved within 43-41 on an Arabian Williams layup with 6:48 left. A short time later, the Patriots made 5-of-6 foul shots during a one-minute stretch to give Westover a 50-43 advantage. Lewis finished with 12 points for Dougherty, and Joshua Christian led the Trojans with 14.
Donald Poole, who coaches the Trojans, said he hoped keeping it close with Westover, which was the GHSA Class AAA runner-up last season, will give his team something to build on.
"We're just trying to get better," Poole said. "Westover has a good team, I'm not taking anything away from them. We've just got to improve on what we're doing."