DAWSON -- A year ago Deerfield-Windsor's girls struggled early in the season to win the close games.
So the Lady Knights out of GISA Class AAA will gladly take Monday's 44-42 win on the road over Class A Terrell Academy, which was no pushover considering the Lady Eagles returned three starters from the defending state championship team.
The Lady Knights (3-0) held off a furious 16-4 Terrell Academy run in the last four minutes to hang on and continue to build on last year's Final Four run.
"We hate that we didn't finish it off better, but this is a very good (Terrell Academy) team and a tough place to play," Lady Knights coach Ty Kinslow said. "We knew we'd be in a dogfight here."
The Lady Knights had built a 40-26 lead on Courtney Kelson's lay-in with 4:42 to play before Terrell (1-2) forced five consecutive turnovers and sliced the lead to two possessions when Marlee Locke drilled a three with 2:48 to play.
"We just kept plugging away when we really started picking the pressure up," Terrell Academy head coach Keith Jones said.
Deerfield struggled at the free-throw line late, hitting just 4-of-13 in the final two minutes, allowing the Lady Eagles to chip away.
Terrell's Brittney Spilman, an eighth grader who played in a junior varsity game a few hours earlier, scored five points in a 30 second span, including converting a three-point play to cut the
Lady Knights' lead to 43-42 with 22 seconds left.
After Deerfield's Lauren Fulford hit 1-of-2 free throws on the other end, the Lady Eagles had two chances to win or tie, but Alex Barfield's shot was blocked by Lacey Kincheloe and then they were unable to get a last-second shot off before time expired.
"Last year we were losing these types of games early," Kinslow said. "You'd like it to be a little prettier at the end, but we're excited and proud to get a 'W'. "
Terrell jumped out to an early 5-0 lead, but Deerfield ran away with a 18-5 second quarter to go up 24-13 at halftime.
"It was almost like the first half we were scared of the pressure and scared of competing," Jones said. "We finally started competing, but it took us until the middle of the third quarter."
Fulford led the Lady Knights with 14 points, while Sabrina Curry added eight. Sarah Shellhaas scored six, while recording five steals and a block despite early foul trouble.
Terrell's Locke led all scorers with 15. Millie Foster scored nine for the Lady Eagles, whose brutal early season schedule continues when they travel to Tiftarea today.
Deerfield's girls, meanwhile, next face First Presbyterian Day on Friday.
Both schools' boys teams will join them in their next game after Monday's game was cancelled to give the players who played in state championships Friday a short break before returning to the court this week. The Deerfield-Terrell boys' game was rescheduled for Jan. 21 in Albany.