AMERICUS — Every now and then two teams play, and immediately after it’s over, all everybody wants to talk about is the rematch.
That’s the kind of game Americus-Sumter and Crisp County’s girls had Friday. The Lady Panthers, ranked No. 8 in the state poll and No. 3 in The Herald’s Fab 5, held off a potential game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds to win, 52-48, and sent the No. 9 state-ranked Lady Cougars home with their first Region 1-AAA loss in a matchup of Top 10 teams.
Go ahead and circle Jan. 31 in Cordele on your calendar.
“We’ll be ready when they come to our place,” Lady Cougars head coach Molly Speir said.
Americus-Sumter’s Kahler Fletcher drained four 3s and scored 20 points to keep the Lady Panthers undefeated at home after a back-and-forth first half.
“We just had to keep doing what we had been doing (in the first half) and play harder on defense,” said Fletcher, who added three steals in the win.
Crisp County’s Nasheema Oliver, a 6-foot-3 sophomore center, ruled the paint early and finished with a game-high 21 points and 13 rebounds, although she was held to seven points in the second half. With so much attention on Oliver, the Lady Cougars went to senior Keidra Green on the final shot, trailing 50-48 in their final possession.
Green, who scored 10 points in the loss, had a hand in her face and may have been contacted on the shot, which clanged off the rim with three seconds left and into the hands of Americus-Sumter’s Ashley Howard, who hit two free throws to ice the game.
“That’s the way it goes,” Speir said of a possible foul on the last shot. “I think we’re a better team than we showed (Friday). We’ve got to put four quarters together. We’ve been too inconsistent lately.”
The Lady Panthers (11-1, 3-0 Region 1-AAA) led by as many as six points in the fourth quarter after Fletcher stole a pass and threw an outlet to Howard for a fast-break layup to give Americus a 44-38 lead with 6:06 to play.
Crisp (6-4, 2-1 Region 1-AAA) stormed back after Oliver hit on a three-point play and a put-back and then Adrianna Dennard made 1-of-2 free throws to tie the game at 48-48 with 1:23 to play.
“I thought we would win because we got the ball inside (in the first half),” Oliver said. “Overall, we did good. We just need to stay on No. 3 (Fletcher) next time.”
Howard, who finished with 11 points and three steals, put the Lady Panthers ahead for good when she connected on a jumper in the lane with 1:08 to play. Oliver’s last basket for Crisp came with more than three minutes left in the game.
“We wanted to deny the ball to her,” Americus-Sumter head coach Evelyn Wright said of defending Oliver in the second half. “We didn’t do what we were supposed to do (in the first half). We showed (the defense) to them on the board (at halftime) and they did it in the second half.”
Americus-Sumter also got a box score full from A’Dasiah Mercer, who scored 10 points and added 11 rebounds to go with two steals. The Lady Panthers play host to Worth County on Tuesday, while Crisp welcomes Colquitt County to Cordele tonight.
CRISP COUNTY BOYS 63, AMERICUS-SUMTER 38: The Cougars put on an alley-oop fest in the second half after leading by just six at the break to cruise to their second region win. Jontavious Carter, Marshall Taylor and Davaughn Smith were doing most of the dunking, while Javoris Cooks and Taylor Walls handled the pinpoint lobs.
Carter finished with 20 points, while Taylor added 14 and Smith posted 11 for Crisp (6-4, 2-1 Region 1-AAA).
Americus-Sumter (5-5, 1-2 Region 1-AAA) was led by eight points apiece from Xavier Daniels and Jarkowski Swanson. Crisp hosts Colquitt County tonight, and Americus plays at home Tuesday against Worth County.