Albany State’s Tip Holston, right, grabs a defensive rebound along with teammate Nicole Wilson in Monday’s game against Clark Atlanta. Holston, who scored 17 points before collapsing near midcourt with 18:13 left in the second half, and her teammates wore pink jerseys as part of the Lady Rams’ “Think Pink” breast cancer awareness night. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)
ALBANY — Albany State star forward Tip Holston crumbled to the floor and lay face down and frozen near midcourt in a scary moment Monday night at HPER Gymnasium.
With the help of the team’s training staff, the 6-foot-1 freshman eventually rose to her feet and gingerly walked off the court after what she later confirmed were chest pains brought on by asthma.
Without their leader, the Lady Rams still found a way to storm back for a victory that kept them on top of the SIAC East Division standings and in the driver’s seat for a top seed in next month’s conference tournament.
In a battle between the top two teams in the East Division, Albany State erased a 10-point second-half deficit and stunned Clark Atlanta, 60-57, by holding the Lady Panthers without a field goal in the final 3:10 and hitting a trio of 3-pointers during that span.
“That was amazing. That was great,” said ASU sophomore and Cordele native Keidra Green, who scored 14 of her 16 points in the second half. “(The comeback) was the best feeling.”
Less than an hour earlier, Green would describe the scene as “scary” when Holston suddenly collapsed in the opening minutes after halftime.
After leading for nearly the entire first half, Clark Atlanta scored the opening bucket of the second half to take a 29-26 lead with 18:26 left in the game.
Thirteen seconds later, as Holston was running back on offense, she fell to the ground, immediately stopping play. She stayed face down for several seconds before ASU’s training staff rushed to her aide.
“I could just feel my chest getting tight and I had tunnel vision, and then I just blacked out,” said Holston, who said she felt fine after the game. “I don’t remember much after that.”
The incident took ASU’s leading scorer and top post player off the court for the rest of the game, and Clark Atlanta took advantage, pulling out to a nine-point lead almost immediately.
Green said the Lady Rams felt a little rattled in the minutes after Holston collapsing.
“Our assistant coach came over and told us that we had to keep doing it for her and that we can’t let that scare us and that if we were scared to get off the court,” Green said. “After that we shook it off and got our heads back in the game.”
Nobody was bigger down that stretch than Green, who hit a layup with 13:28 left to pull the Lady Rams back within single digits after Clark Atlanta had stretched its lead to 10 points. Then Green nailed three 3-pointers in the final 11 minutes, including a trey from the corner with a hand in her face that put ASU on top 53-52 with 1:59 left — the Lady Rams’ first lead since midway through the first half.
“I usually don’t shoot with a hand in my face, but I knew if we were going to take the lead we needed a three,” Green said. “I had the confidence, and I knocked it down.”
It was one of three 3-pointers in a span of 1:23 for the Lady Rams, who finished 5-for-9 from long range in the second half.
“I told them to shoot it,” ASU coach Robert Skinner said. “I told them that (Clark Atlanta) was in a zone, and they are going to give you those looks, so if they give you those looks please shoot the ball. They shot the ball and fortunately made them.”
Clark Atlanta tied the game back up at 53-53, but then ASU’s Mecca Frost nailed a 3-pointer on an assist from Jillian Anderson with 1:20 left to put the Lady Rams on top for good.
It was a heck of a way to bounce back from Thursday’s disappointing home loss to Claflin.
“That comeback actually made my chest start hurting again,” Holston jokingly said after the game. “That’s how exciting that was.”
Despite not playing the final 18 minutes, Holston led all scorers with 17 points and finished with a team-high eight rebounds. Kourtney Alexander scored 12 points for the Lady Rams, while Conisha Hicks finished with 15 points to lead Clark Atlanta.
The Lady Rams (16-5, 11-3 SIAC) are now at least a game ahead of everybody else in the conference with just two SIAC contests remaining, while Clark Atlanta (15-7, 8-4) dropped all the way into fourth place in a tightly bunched East Division.