Herald Super 6er and Westover star DyTiesha Dunson scored 15 points to the lead the Lady Patriots past Crisp County on Tuesday and continue their unbeaten season.
CORDELE — Nasheema Oliver is a force, a storm unto herself.
She might just be the most dominate Class AAA girls basketball player in Georgia. She proved that Tuesday, pouring in 20 points and grabbing 23 rebounds.
But it wasn’t enough.
Not against Westover, not against the Lady Patriots, who are No. 1 in The Herald’s Fab 5 Poll and No. 4 in the state. Not against the Lady Patriots, who are still perfect at 13-0 after holding back Crisp County, 40-36, Tuesday in a game that took a little of everything from the kids from Albany.
Just look at freshman Aubrie Ann Moore, whose baseline drive with 1:42 left lifted Westover to a 36-34 lead that the Lady Patriots never relinquished. Moore also hit a pair of big free throws down the stretch and finished with seven points, but her drive gave Westover the push it needed to re-take the lead for the final time.
Herald Super 6er DyTiesha Dunson followed that play with her eighth steal of the night and dropped in two free throws with 48 seconds left to give Westover a four-point edge.
And after Oliver nailed a put-back, Super 6er Ieshia Young put this one away with two more free throws with 12 seconds left.
“Everybody stepped up,’’ said Dunson, who finished with 15 points. “Bree (Moore) really stepped up at the end of the game.’’
It was a night of redemption for Westover, which beat Crisp County three times last year but then lost to the Lady Cougars in the Elite 8 round of the Class AAA state playoffs. Crisp went to the Final Four and Westover went home.
“I really wanted to beat them bad,’’ Dunson said. “You try not to think about what happened last year when we didn’t go to the Final Four, but it’s always there in the back of your head. We really wanted to win this game and stay undefeated. We’re trying to win state this year and we want to go unbeaten. This was big. It was a big win.’’
Crisp County, ranked No. 9 in the state poll, got a big night from Oliver, and Adrianna Dennard scored eight points and Nisha Waters scored six, including back-to-back drives that gave Crisp a 34-32 lead with 2:48 left. But Dunson answered with a 10-foot jumper to knot things at 34-34 before Moore hit her big drive.
In the past five games during the last two years, Crisp has never scored more than 37 points on Westover, and in the end that was the difference again Tuesday.
“The difference was our defense,’’ Westover coach Lewis Smith said. “We played defense as well as we can against their height advantage. In this kind of environment you’ve got to play great defense, or defense will kill you.’’
Oliver is 6-foot-3 and she simply dominated inside, but Westover forced 17 turnovers, including seven in the fourth quarter to hold off Crisp.
“We couldn’t keep her off the glass,’’ Dunson said of Oliver. “Nothing we could do would stop her. We tried double-teaming her, and she still had a monster night.’’
Smith knew his team would just have to outlast Oliver, who scored more than half of Crisp’s points.
“She is going to get her points,’’ Smith said of Oliver. “But we had a team effort. We had younger girls like Moore, who is a freshman, and Mykesa Smith, who is a sophomore taking shots at the end of the game.
“They wanted this game bad. We tried not to talk about the missed opportunity of not going to the Final Four before the game. But they all remember. And we have a brand new team with a lot of young players. But they wanted this one bad.’’
Smith knows the significance of beating Crisp in Cordele. This year’s Region 1-AAA tournament host will be decided by the top seeded girls team and Westover and Herald No. 2 Americus-Sumter are both unbeaten in the region. Crisp has two losses, and Dougherty and Monroe, which both already lost at Crisp County, are right behind the Lady Cougars.
“It‘s hard for any team to come in here and get a win against that team,’’ Smith said. “This is a big region win. Americus-Sumter now has to come here and try to get a win. This was huge for us.’’
WESTOVER BOYS 70, CRISP COUNTY 63: Crisp County coach Terry Smith didn’t take long to describe what T.J. Cromer means to Westover.
“He’s our D.J. to them,‘’ said Smith, who will see the return of his best player, D.J. Jackson, this week. Jackson, who was Crisp’s leading scorer last year, has been out all season after being suspended from school, but he should make a big impact when he returns for the Cougars, who stormed back to make it close before losing by seven to Herald No. 1 Westover.
“T.J. Cromer makes a big difference for them,’’ Smith said. “He can play. It was like he was throwing it in the ocean against us.’’
Cromer finished with 33 points, and ignited Westover all night, especially when Crisp made a run in the second half. It seemed like Cromer, who hit four 3s, had the answer for almost every threat by Crisp County, which erased a 14-point first-half deficit thanks to Jontavious Carter, who scored 17 of his team-high 21 points in the second half, including 11 in the third quarter.
“We tried to get on him, but he takes two dribbles and he’s to the hole,” said Westover coach Dallis Smith of Carter, a star Crisp receiver who is going to the University of Miami on a football scholarship. Carter almost brought Crisp back.
“We had a tough-love talk at halftime,’’ Terry Smith said. “(Then Jontavious) came out and had a great second half. They got a lot of baskets in transition, and the difference in the second half was our transition defense.’’
Westover, which has now won nine of its last 10 games and is unbeaten in Region 1-AAA, not only dominated the boards in the first half, but the Patriots (10-3) drove for almost every basket, scoring 24 of their 31 first-half points in the paint. They led, 31-19, at halftime, before Crisp stormed back, but the Cougars (6-6) could get no closer than three points.
“We didn’t start playing until the second half,’’ Carter lamented.
Cromer never stopped playing and carried Westover, which had to play most of the second half without Herald Super 6er Dequan Green, who took a hard fall to the floor early in the third quarter. But Cromer and Brandon Hudson (eight points), Kenneth Towns (five points) and Kyle Baker (six points) did enough to hold off Crisp.
“We just had to get the W,’’ Cromer said. “We want to stay No. 1 in the region, and we had to get this game. It’s a big win. We need to show everybody in the region that we’re ready for everybody.’’