Herald Super 6er Briunna Freeman hit two free throws with 1.8 seconds left Friday to lift the Lady Hornets past the one-loss Lady Bulldogs of Thomasville, 49-48.
PELHAM — Oh Lord!
That’s what Briunna Freeman was thinking when she went to the free throw line with the game in her hands.
Then came the words, then came the shot, the win, the celebration — and all the hugging.
“That was the best hug I’ve had all year,” said Freeman, who was wrapped in the arms of her Pelham teammates after her free throw with 1.8 seconds left beat Thomasville, 49-48, on Friday night in Pelham.
“When I went to the free throw line, I was just saying, ‘Oh Lord!’ Then my teammates were all saying, ‘You got this,’ ’’ Freeman said. “That relaxed me.”
There was nothing relaxing about this give-and-take game that saw the teams fight through lead changes all night in a classic showdown between two of the best Class AA teams in Georgia.
Thomasville entered the game at 18-1 with the only loss coming to Class AAAAAA Redan. The Lady Bulldogs had won 10 in a row and looked a bit invincible, especially after handing Pelham a 40-39 loss earlier. The Lady Bulldogs are the only AA team to beat Pelham this season.
The Lady Hornets, ranked No. 4 in The Herald Fab 5 Poll, are 19-3 and have lost only to AAAA Herald No. 3 Monroe in OT and AAAAAA Colquitt County. But this is the one that counted the most. It evens the season with Thomasville at 1-1 and leaves both teams tied for first place at 8-1 in the Region 1-AA race.
“This was the biggest win of the year,’’ said Pelham coach Antonio Tookes, whose team moved up to AA this season and hasn’t missed a step. “This game was like the one we played over there (in Thomasville). They made a free throw with six seconds left to beat us.’’
Lanisha Douglas hit 3 treys to lead Thomasville with 12 points and Ja Dunbar added nine for the Lady Bulldogs on Friday. But Tookes said that was one of critical parts to the win — slowing down Dunbar, who was the one to hit the free throw to beat Pelham in Thomasville.
“She can shoot,’’ Tookes said of Dunbar. “If she gets an opening, she can hit the shot. We put Annie Franklin on here, and she did a great job defending her. That was a key for us to win this game.’’
But nobody could slow down Freeman, a Herald Super 6er who led everyone with 27 points. She scored 10 in the crucial fourth quarter and simply made one big play after another. She also had six rebounds, three blocks and four steals.
“I guess that’s why she’s a Super 6er,’’ Tookes said. “Super 6ers have to step up, and she stepped up. I’m happy she plays for Pelham.’’
It was a nightmare for Freeman. Well, a nightmare until Friday.
“This was revenge,’’ she said. “I stayed up late at nights thinking about beating them after they beat us.’’
She may not sleep for awhile after the big win.
She wasn’t alone. Timbreanna Hudson, a sophomore and force inside for Pelham, not only had a double-double, she had a double-dozen, scoring 12 points and grabbing 12 rebounds to go along with three blocks. And Hudson hit one of the biggest shots of the night, a banker that gave Pelham a 48-46 lead with 1:22 left.
“When I made that shot I just thought, ‘Did I just make that?’ We had to beat them. It payback,’’ Hudson said. “They beat us and it hurt. It hurt a lot. When (Freeman) made the free throw I was just so happy, sooo happy.”
The game was tied 11 times, and both teams built six-point leads at different stages of the game — only to see the other storm back and take the lead.
But in the end — in those wild, frantic few seconds, Pelham found a way, The Lady Hornets built a 30-24 lead with six minutes left in the third only to watch Thomasville rip off a 16-4 runs that was fueled by 3-pointers from DeJa Haden and Douglas that lifted the Lady Bulldogs to a 40-34 lead. But Freeman drove again and hit two free throws to end the third. The Lady Hornets were still down 40-36 — but Pelham was on its way back.
Freeman hit a highlight-tape floater to open the fourth and Hillary Williams hit a drive to knot it at 40-40. The stage was set for the see-saw finish. Freeman hit a lightning-quick drive to give Pelham a 42-40 lead to complete a 6-0 run, but Thomasville wouldn’t quit. After another tie at 42-42, Dunbar made a long 3 to left Thomasville to a 45-42 lead, but Freeman — who else? — fought through traffic and hit another in-your-face drive to give Pelham a 46-45 edge with 2:30 left.
It wasn’t over. Danisha Jones hit one and missed another free throw with 1:44 left to even things at 46-46, and Pelham snapped right back when Hudson banked in a shot for a 48-46 lead with 1:22 left in the game. Thomasville tied it one last time when Bree Brown made a baseline move and dropped in a 48-48 tie with 40 seconds left.
Freeman’s drive skipped in-and-out, dancing all over the rim before Brown grabbed the rebound for Thomasville, but Brown’s wild pass sailed out of bounds with 11 seconds left — giving Pelham and Freeman one last chance. They made the most when Williams hit Freeman on the run and the Super 6er made a super move along the baseline and was fouled going to the basket with 1.8 seconds left.
That’s when she hit the biggest free throw of the year for Pelham.
Sweet dreams, Briunna.
PELHAM BOYS 59, THOMASVILLE 45: One more to go.
That’s where Pelham’s young Hornets are today after beating perennial powerhouse Thomasville, 59-45, on Friday night at Pelham, where Miranda Robinson brought down the house with a rousing rendition of The National Anthem to open the night
Pelham’s one-sided win puts the Hornets one game away from locking up the region’s top seed and hosting the upcoming Region 1-AA tournament.
The good news is that if that happens, Robinson will sing again. The better news? Pelham is so young there is no telling how far this team might go in the state playoffs.
The Hornets are 15-7 and a perfect 9-0 in the region with three games to play. All they have to do is win one of them, and they could clinch as early as tonight in Early County (no pun intended).
“We need one more win,’’ said Pelham coach Laron Smith, who starts four juniors and a senior and brings in two sophomores off the bench. No one drops in monster numbers, but that’s just fine with Smith.
“That’s the beauty of this team,’’ Smith said. “We have a different leading scorer every night. And they all score about the same. We usually have nine players in the books every game.’’
Shydarious Williams, the lone senior, has been Pelham’s leading scorer, averaging about 11 points a game. That’s what he got Friday in Pelham’s share-the-wealth offense. Darius Spence scored 11, Clifford Stewart added 10, Jaquan Green dropped in nine points and Trevon White had eight.
Thomasville (6-3 in the region with two of those losses coming at the hands of Pelham) was led by Jay Bowdry, who scored 11 points.
The Hornets built an 18-point lead, but Thomasville stormed back to make it interesting with a 17-6 run to close to 49-42, but White had a big and-one play with 1:47 left to stop the bleeding and Pelham went on to win easily.
“It took them a while to learn how to play together and to learn how to win,” Smith said. “But we’re first place, and we need one more win to host the region.’’