ALBANY -- Welcome back Ashley Hicks.
There wasn't exactly a homecoming party for Hicks on Saturday night, but the Albany girls basketball team did enough dancing and celebrating after beating Dougherty. All that was missing was a cake.
"This was a breakout game for Ashley,'' said Albany coach Telly Turner, who hadn't started Hicks since before the holidays but did Saturday in the 46-40 win. Hicks had to leave town for some family issues, and when she came back to the team she had to work her way into shape and into the starting lineup.
Hicks, a 6-foot-1 senior, made her presence known, especially in a pressure-packed fourth quarter in which Albany pulled away after trailing for most of the first half.
Hicks scored back-to-back baskets inside to lift Albany (13-9) to a 39-34 lead with 2:10 left and the Squaws never looked back. Hicks finished with 11 points and nine rebounds to lead the way for Albany, which has now won six in a row. Chasity Mullins and Briana Williams also scored 11 each.
"This game was important,'' Hicks said. "It was my time to show my coach and my teammates. I hadn't started in a long time so I wanted to make the most of it.
"I had to work hard to get back in shape and get back to playing for my team. It was exciting to win (Saturday night) to beat Dougherty, and exciting for me to start again."
Turner couldn't have been happier. Her team had lost to Dougherty (8-7) earlier in the season, and she not only picked up a victory against a city rival, but she found a center she has been looking for all year.
"This could really change our team,'' Turner said. "We have real good guard play, but not much post play. If we can get her to play like she did (Saturday night) for the rest of the season, we can go a long way. She showed what kind of player she can be. She had been in a slump, but she had a breakout game.''
In the end, it took some strong free throw shooting from Mullins, who put the game away by hitting 3 out of 4 free throws in the final 22 seconds. Albany had missed 9 of 11 free throws in the final quarter before Mullins found the bottom of the net.
It was a frustrating loss for Dougherty, which led, 25-24, at halftime, but scored just five points in the third quarter and only 10 in the fourth. During one stretch, the Lady Trojans went more than seven minutes without a basket.
"I was so mad I didn't even want to talk, Dougherty coach Charlene Jackson said. "How did we get to the point where we are so stagnant we can't score? We just went so long without scoring a basket. And we had opportunities.''