Dougherty High’s Amber Ward shoots over Westover’s Alicia Samuels (45) at Darton State College on Friday. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)
ALBANY — The Westover High School Lady Patriots locked up the No. 3 seed in the upcoming Region 1-AAAA Tournament with a hard-fought 55-46 win Friday over Dougherty at Darton State College.
The win improves Westover’s record to 19-5 overall and 10-4 in region play, while Dougherty’s falls to 12-9 overall and 7-7.
“It was a good game,” said Westover head coach Lewis Smith. “The intensity was up and everybody was into it.”
Looking to avenge an earlier 38-32 loss to the Lady Patriots in January, Dougherty came out hot to start the game, taking an early lead on the strength of a 7-2 run behind stiff defense and early offense from senior Amber Ward.
Despite losing some early turnovers and failed jump shots in the face of Dougherty’s 2-3 zone, Westover was able to out-rebound the Lady Trojans in the first quarter and battle back to finish the period down only by only three at 12-9.
The second quarter saw both teams going back and forth and trading baskets until the Lady Patriots finally took their first lead of the game at 18-16, with roughly five minutes left, behind hot long-range shooting from seniors Achanti Layfield and My’Kesa Smith.
Westover carried its scoring momentum throughout the period while Dougherty hit a cold streak, allowing the Lady Patriots to take a 28-22 halftime lead.
Perhaps sensing it had the Lady Trojans on the ropes, Westover came out hot in the third period and continued its stellar long-range shooting, pulling to a 14-point lead by the end of the period.
The ball finally appeared to be bouncing Dougherty’s way as the fourth quarter got underway and Lady Trojan standout senior Ra’Keta Shelton was finally able to get clear of early foul trouble and make her presence felt inside, causing turnovers and leading Dougherty on a 12-2 run that got it within six.
Dougherty used stifling pressure to force Westover into repeated turnovers. But just when it seemed the Lady Trojans might wear the Lady Patriots down, a costly intentional foul committed by junior Takiya Davis against Westover’s Layfield stopped the momentum.
Layfield made both foul shots, Westover retained the ball and never looked back. In the end, Dougherty committed too many turnovers, was out-rebounded and had no answer for Westover’s perimeter offense.
Layfield proved not only to be Westover’s top scorer but also the top scorer for the game with 23 points, which included her going 3-for-3 from three-point range.
Smith also had a solid night scoring for the Lady Patriots, going 3-for-4 from 3-point range on her way to 15 points. Junior Au Bre’ Ana Moore added seven points.
“Ashanti Layfield’s a senior and had the kind of game a senior needs to have,” Smith said of his top scorer. “It’s her time, do or die.”
Ward led the way for Dougherty, putting up 18 points, followed by Shelton with 13 points and Davis with 11 points.
Westover now turns its attention to the first round of the region tournament when it will meet a play-in game winner on its home court, something Smith is thankful for.
“The win gives us a three seed, so we get a chance to play Tuesday in our own gym,” Lewis said. “Playing at home will help the girls with their confidence as we’ll be able to go through our normal routine.”
A win in Tuesday’s home game will put the Lady Trojans into the semifinals of the region tournament.
“Next week should be really good,” Smith said. “We’ve got to win another game to get into the semis. We’re at the point where we’ve seen everybody twice so we know what to expect and should be able to game plan.”