ALBANY - Albany High's Squaws had a good excuse for being ice-cold at the free throw line - the heat in the school's gym was out.
Still, a 1-for-13 night at the charity strip cost Albany dearly in a buzzer-beating 37-36 win for Berrien High Tuesday in Region 1-AA play.
After forcing the Lady Rebels to call back-to-back timeouts on an inbounds play under the basket with just three seconds left to play, the Squaws, leading 36-35, let Berrien's Chante Payne slip open underneath.
Payne grabbed the inbounds, spun around and dropped in a contested layup as the buzzer sounded to cripple an already hurt Squaws team.
"Every play we called (on the inbounds) was designed to get (Payne) the ball," Berrien head coach Tim Hathcock said. "It was different formations, but basically the same thing - get it to her."
Albany (5-7, 2-1 Region 1-AA) had their worst night at the foul line on the season, or least head coach Telly Turner prays it is.
"I hope so," Turner said. "I really hope so."
The Squaws were 0-for-10 from the line before Nakeidra Caldwell banked one-of-two in to give Albany its 36-35 lead with 45 seconds to play. Albany missed the front end of a one-and-one with 17 seconds to play, failing to increase their lead and eventually falling on Payne's last-second shot.
"It's not that last shot," Turner said. "It's the free throws. That was the game."
Berrien (9-7, 2-1 Region 1-AA) hit 6-of-8 at the foul line and got a game-high 14 points from Lindsey Young. Payne finished with seven points and seven rebounds.
The Squaws were playing the second consecutive game without leading scorers Chastity Mullins and Kizzie Coleman.
"(Albany) could have iced it up," Hathcock said. "I know they missed (Mullins and Coleman)."
Turner will likely miss both of those players when her team travels to Thomasville Friday to take on the powerful Lady Bulldogs, one of the favorites to win the Class AA title.
And there's no telling when they might be back.
"We don't know what's going on (with their injuries)," Turner said. "They're going to have some tests done, but we have no idea."
Albany trailed Tuesday, 13-6, after the first quarter, but outscored the Lady Rebels 12-2 in the second quarter to take an 18-15 halftime lead.
The Squaws built their largest lead of the second half, 31-25, with Michelle Edwards' lay-in with 6:06 to play.
Albany was led by Briana Williams, who had a huge first-half with 10 points and finished with 12 and three steals. Ladeisha Green scored 10 points and added nine rebounds for the Squaws.
ALBANY BOYS 66, BERRIEN 49:
The Indians ran past Berrien on Tuesday to improve to 2-1 in Region 1-AA, but imagine what they could do if they'd played to head coach Archie Chatmon's expected level.
Despite the 17-point win, Chatmon said the energy from last week's rivalry game wasn't there.
"I didn't see the energy that we had against Monroe," said Chatmon, whose team lost to the rival Tornadoes on Saturday. "We've got to get them to play everybody with that kind of energy."
Tim Pierce's energy level wasn't lacking and his game-high 25 points and eight boards showed it.
After several close victories this season and a tight region loss at Cook County, Pierce scored 16 points in the second half to help the Indians (6-6, 2-1 Region 1-AA) knock the Rebels out.
"I'm happy with the win because we were able to put (Berrien) away," Chatmon said. "That's what we haven't been doing."
Albany also got 14 points from Larry Sanford and a strong inside presence from big man Jontavius Morris, who scored 10 and pulled down six boards.
Berrien (3-8, 0-3 Region 1-AA) was led by Treshaad Williams' 13 points and nine rebounds.
Albany also has its hands full with Class AA power Thomasville on Friday on the road.