Bad bounces and buzzer-beater doom Lady Cavs
Down by as many as 17 in the second quarter, the Lady Hilltoppers of R-S Central battled back to earn a dramatic 82-71 win over East Rutherford to sweep the regular-season series between the county rivals Saturday night in Rutherfordton.
“We gave this one away,” said East head coach Larry Ross.
“You have to give credit to Larry Ross and his girls,” said Central head coach Darius Fuller. “They came in her with a great gameplan but we just fought back.”
Alyssia Watkins set the tempo with a coast-to-coast layup to open the scoring, but the Lady Cavs took it from there with a 12-2 run capped by a Shay Dewberry 3 from the left wing to go up 12-4 with 3:45 left in the first quarter.
More sloppy play and turnovers doomed the Hilltoppers to the finish of the first quarter. East owned a 23-9 advantage heading into the second quarter.
East continued to outplay Central behind Rachel Camp through the first half of the second quarter forcing Fuller to call his first timeout of the game trailing 30-13 with just under four minutes remaining in the half.
Something during that timeout ignited the Lady Hilltoppers who scored the next seven points in just 90 seconds to cut the lead to just 10 at 30-20.
A late injury to East’s Justina Greene and a handful of transition points for Central cut the lead to 33-28 at halftime.
Camp led East with 14 first-half points while Watkins paced Central with nine.
Out of the break the Hilltoppers maintained momentum with a 9-3 run capped by a Taylor Miller bucket that gave Central their first lead since the first minute of the game at 37-36 less than three minutes into the third quarter.
Ross called a timeout to regroup his girls who answered with a quick 10-0 spurt capped by another Dewberry 3 to jump back on top at 46-37.
Central scored just 3 points in the final five minutes of the third quarter en route to a 53-40 deficit going into the fourth and final quarter.
After Camp fouled out of the game early in the fourth the Hilltoppers took advantage of the suddenly-depleted Cavs.
A series of Cavalier turnovers led to easy baskets for Central as they cut the lead to 59-51 with 4:05 left in the game.
Watkins, playing with four fouls throughout much of the quarter, cut the deficit to just 6 with a layup in traffic to make the score 64-58 with 2:38 remaining.
“I just looked at [Watkins] and told her she had four fouls and needed to play smart,” said Fuller. “And she did.”
Watkins brought her team with four at 66-62 with 30.9 seconds left with another tough layup.
Watkins tried her best to get Central within two but Greene pinned a layup attempt to preserve the two-possession lead.
After Watkins caused a jumpball on defense to earn possession for Central, Aaliyah Davis drained a jumper with 1.4 seconds left to make the score 66-64.
The Cavs tried a deep pass to expire the clock but the long toss bounced off the rafters deferring the ball to Central with one final chance to tie or win the game.
From under the basket, Watkins found Te’ja Twitty for the equalizer on a set play that Central has mastered all season.
The buzzer rang with the tied scored 66-66.
“All we had to do was get the ball inbounds and the game would have been over,” Ross said. “Sometimes things like that happen.”
Central’s press forced consecutive East turnovers as the scored the first 8 points of the overtime period within 35 seconds.
Eight more points in the final minute sealed the 82-71 victory for the Lady Hilltoppers.
Watkins fiished the night with 24 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. Twitty added 14 points and 17 boards while Christian Godlock quietly had the best game of her career with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Miller also had 15 points.
Dewberry and Camp each had 23 points for the Lady Cavs. Greene added 14 points.
Central travels to Chase on Tuesday, Jan. 29 while the Cavs host Patton. Tipoffs are set for 6 p.m.