Herald Super 6er Shay Reese scored eight points in Tuesday’s narrow 44-43 win vs. Bainbridge. (Larry G. Williams/Special to The Herald)
PELHAM — The Pelham girls basketball team has had plenty of high-scoring games on its way to a 19-2 record and a No. 2 ranking in The Herald’s Fab 5 poll.
But when the Lady Hornets clipped Bainbridge, 44-43, on Tuesday night, it was all about defense.
“We take a lot of pride in our defense,” said Pelham’s Briuanna Freeman, who finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds. “In the locker room, we say stuff like ‘I got her’ or ‘She’s not scoring.’ ”
There must have been a mountain of that talk going on during the Lady Hornets’ matchup with the Lady Bearcats (13-7), who can shoot lights out from the field but were held to just 13-of-47 (27 percent). Pelham coach Antonia Tookes may have seen better offensive games from her squad, but she had little to complain about with her team’s defensive effort, which propelled the Lady Hornets to their fourth win in a row and second this season against Bainbridge.
“This was a team win here. I’m not giving the game ball to nobody,” Tookes said. “Everybody played defense (Tuesday night). We are without one of our starters right now (freshman center Timbreanna Hudson). Usually we can go inside, but we couldn’t go inside (Tuesday night).”
Hudson sat out of the non-region contest with a minor injury to her knee, and the Lady Hornets could have used her down the stretch when Bainbridge was trying to make a late push.
Pelham’s Octavia Kierce, who scored a game-high 15 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, knocked down a pair of free throws with 1:41 left to give her team a 42-35 lead, but then it started to slip away from the Lady Hornets.
The Lady Hornets hit just 2-of-6 free throws in their next three possessions, and Bainbridge got field goals from Briana Wade and Takeia Crankfield to pull to within four points with six seconds left. The Lady Bearcats forced a turnover, and Wade sank a deep 3-pointer to bring Bainbirdge to within a point. Bainbridge coach Kelvin Cochran called an immediate timeout after Wade’s trey, but the clock just didn’t have enough time left on it for his Lady Bearcats to complete their comeback.
“The referee told me he looked up and there was half of a second left,” Cochran said. “I said, ‘No, there was more than that.’ But he was like, ‘That’s all I saw.’ ”
And with less than a second left, Wade’s 3 from nearly half court was as close as Bainbridge could get, but Cochran was still happy with his team after it fought back from an 11-point, halftime deficit.
“I told them we would get our chances and to keep fighting and keep believing,” Cochran said. “We still had a chance. I was just proud of them for not giving up. Things weren’t going good for us early, but then things got going and the girls were feeling a little more confident in themselves.”
Wade and Ri’Chana Jackson each scored 12 points to lead the Lady Bearcats. Jackson, who fouled near the end of the fourth quarter, also had eight rebounds, while Wade added seven rebounds, three blocks and two steals. Jazmine Kelly came off the bench to score nine points and grab seven rebounds.
Pelham didn’t shoot much better from the floor than the Lady Bearcats, who also forced Pelham into 15 turnovers. Only four girls scored for the Lady Hornets — Kierce (15), Freeman (12), Hillary Williams (9) and Herald Super 6er Shay Reese (8). The only other Lady Hornet to attempt a shot was Kayla Smith, who was 0-for-2 in the first quarter.
“Our offense (Tuesday) was kind of stagnant,” Tookes said. “We didn’t know who to go to. Everyone was looking around like, ‘Who do I give it to?’ ”
BAINBRIDGE BOYS 63, PELHAM 48: You would be hard-pressed to find a hotter team in Southwest Georgia than The Herald No. 4 Bearcats, who ran away to their 11th straight win Tuesday night in Pelham.
“Holding a team to 12 points in the first half in their own gym is pretty good,” said Bainbridge coach Rickey McCullough, whose Bearcats are now 16-4. “I like where we are as a team, and we have a big one with (Thomas County) Central on Friday night. It’s tough over there, and if we can win that one then that will seal us No. 1 in the sub region.”
The Bearcats may have a huge Region 1-AAAA game Friday, but they weren’t looking past Tuesday’s game against Pelham, which they dominated from the opening tip. They jumped to a 26-12 lead at halftime and then outscored the Hornets, 37-36, in the second half to hold on.
Dontavius Marshall led the Bearcats with 17 points, while Rodney Glenn, who threw down thundering one-handed dunks on back-to-back possessions in the third quarter, scored 14. Trea Kelly added 12 points and Paul Chukes scored 10.
Steve Mango scored 14 points for Pelham (10-11) and was the only Hornet to reach double figures. Mango and the rest of his teammates also have a huge weekend this weekend when they square off against Region 1-A foes Miller County on Friday and 1-A top dog Mitchell County on Saturday.
“I believe that if we can get past (Tuesday) and get two strong days of practice, then we will be ready for this weekend,” said Pelham coach Laron Smith, whose Hornets are 7-4 in region play tied for second place with Miller. Both are behind Mitchell (15-7, 10-0).