Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

February 27, 2014

Refusing to lose

Lowndes overcomes hole to down Marietta; advances to semifinal

VALDOSTA — Through Lowndes’ run to the Class AAAAAA quarterfinal round, the Vikettes proved adept at escaping close games. On Wednesday night, the Vikettes pulled their greatest Houdini impression yet, coming back from down eight to force overtime before defeating Marietta 53-44.

Two days after pulling out a nail-biter against No. 4 ranked Hillgrove, the Vikettes fought through physical defense, sloppy turnovers, and fatigue to beat the Blue Devils and advance to a state semifinal. There, Lowndes will face Archer, a 57-39 winner against North Forsyth, at Georgia Tech on Saturday.

Lowndes’ latest comeback had head coach Brittany Ferguson at a loss for words when trying to describe the resiliency of her players.

“God is good,” said Ferguson.”Even though we felt like we were asleep for three and a half quarters they seem to find a way, they seem to find a way. I didn’t say anything to them different from tip-off until the end of overtime.

“Something inside them just refuses to lose.”

Marietta slowed the pace of the game which kept Lowndes (22-8) from getting out in transition and when the Vikettes did get the ball into the lane they were met by some physical play.

Lowndes answered with fantastic half-court defense of its own, but there is no doubt the Blue Devils’ physicality played a big role in stifling Lowndes’ offense.

“They beat us up,” said Ferguson. “Well, we beat each other up, but it took more of a toll on us if you could tell.

“We have a lot of finesse kids, not a whole lot of physical kids, but they found a way to get physical in the last four minutes of that game, so I guess that’s all that really matters.”

Despite doing an excellent job in challenging the Blue Devils’ shots, the Vikettes were beat up on the offensive glass throughout the first three quarters as Marietta took a 32-26 lead into the fourth.

The lead reached as many as eight before Lowndes began to battle back, chipping at the lead little by little.

With the Vikettes trailing by three with just nine seconds remaining, Lowndes’ star Tashia Brown was fouled hard while trying to get a shot off from 3-point range.

A lot of players would wilt under the pressure of game-tying free throws, but players like Brown relish having the ball in their hands in crunch time.

“I kinda like pressure,” said Brown. “I was a little scared because I knew the game was on the line, but I told coach in practice that I like pressure and I like to be the one at the line at that point in time.”

Brown stepped to the line needing to make all three to force overtime and she did just that, calmly drilling each free throw to tie the game at 40 and give the fans four more minutes of basketball.

One more period seemed to be just what the Vikettes needed to figure out Marietta’s defense as overtime was all Lowndes from the beginning.

Faith Starling knocked down a baseline jumper to take a quick two-point lead and a stop on the other end led to a Di’era DeLoatch basket in transition, Lowndes’ first fastbreak points of the night, a sight for sore eyes for Ferguson.

“Just to see her take off, I’m just saying, ‘Thank the Lord,’” said Ferguson. “I sat her for awhile and she had fresh legs so I told her, ‘I need you to run,’ and that’s exactly what she went out there and did and it paid off.”

DeLoatch hit another fastbreak layup a few seconds later as six of her 10 points came in overtime, helping to propel the Vikettes into the final four.

Brown scored 13 of her game-high 18 points in the fourth quarter. It seemed that whenever Lowndes needed a spark Brown came through.

Trailing by four with less than two minutes remaining in the game, Brown nailed a 3-pointer while getting fouled; she hit the free throw to complete the four-point play and tie the game.

Marietta’s Jacky Jones shot just 1-6 at the free throw line in the final minutes of the game, keeping Lowndes close until Brown sank three straight at the line to force overtime.

“She’s just amazing,” Ferguson said. “That kid can go, even when you don’t think she has anymore left, she just finds a way.

“She’s just a leader, she’s just a flat-out fighter. She’s not a kid you can replace.”

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