By Anthony Gagliano
THOMASVILLE -- A one-point overtime loss would have been difficult to take any day. But, considering it was the sixth in the past seven games for a Lowndes girls basketball team that started 3-0, coach Shan Garner had a difficult time containing his emotions after Monday's 74-73 setback to Worth County in the first round of the Reebok Holiday Hoopfest.
"We don't know how to play under pressure," said the first-year Vikettes coach. "I'm shaking my head, wondering where this rag-tag play is coming from. I take some of the blame, myself. Maybe I don't have them prepared. It's always on me, ultimately."
Yet, Garner couldn't blame himself when the Rams hit Taylor Youngblood on a back screen under the basket, tying the game at 57 with 5.5 seconds left and forcing overtime.
"The last timeout before they scored to go into overtime, I told them (Youngblood) was going to take the shot," Garner said. "Guess what? (Youngblood) took the shot. It's just inexperience."
Turnovers allowed Worth to score the first five points of the extra period. The Vikettes closed to one, 68-67, on a three-pointer by Markeisha Close with 28.8 seconds left. However, Jokelra Copeland scored all six of her points for the Rams in overtime, hitting 6-of-6 free throws, including four in the final 15 seconds to cement the win. Close drained another three, but time ran out before Worth even had to in bound the ball.
The loss obscured a dynamic performance on both ends of the court from Krystal Thomas. She appeared to have the game-winning shot when she sank a jumper with 50 seconds to play in regulation that put Lowndes up 56-55. On defense, Thomas came up with another steal and the Vikettes whittled the clock down to 16.5 before Thomas went to the free-throw line. She only made one of two, allowing Youngblood, who scored a game-high 23 before fouling out in OT, to tie the game on the other end.
Thomas' defense gave the Vikettes their largest lead as she swiped the ball on back-to-back trips in the third quarter, leading to easy, fast break baskets. In fact, Marley Williams scored off a Worth turnover to put Lowndes up eight with 1:15 to go in the third quarter, but the Vikettes hit a drought, going scoreless for more than 3 1/2 minutes as Worth regained the lead midway through the fourth quarter.
"We played well enough to win that game. Easily," Garner said. "We turned the ball over at the wrong time."
By scoring the first seven points of the fourth quarter, the Brooks County boys basketball team appeared to be turning its first round game at the Reebok Holiday Hoopfest against Valdosta into a rout.
The Wildcats had a run of their own, though, using the inside-outside combination of Brian Brow and Santonio Bivins. What had been a 19-point lead after the Trojans' 7-0 spurt was just six after Brow, a junior point guard, glided under the basket for a sparkling reverse layup. The nifty move came on the heels of Brow's second three-pointer of the quarter and a 10-second violation on Brooks to really get momentum on Valdosta's side, as the 'Cats trailed 59-53 with 1:22 to go.
But, as quickly as the momentum came, Brooks' Greg Washington deflated it with his only basket of the game, sealing the Trojans' 63-55 win.
Brooks (6-3, 3-1 in Region 1-AA) advanced to the second round and improved to 2-0 against VHS this season, winning 65-61 Dec. 4 in Valdosta.
Joseph Huewitt led the Trojans in scoring in both games, connecting on four threes Monday for his game-high 14 points. Three of his teammates joined him in double figures, as Tony Sutton, Darius Brinson and Robby Christian each accounted for 10 points.
"We played smart on offense," Brooks County coach Winfred Williams said. "Normally, we play impatient and take the first shot. But, we moved the ball around and got good shots."
VHS (6-5) got eight in the fourth from Bivins and 10 of Brow's team-high 13 points.
"He gave us a spark tonight," said coach John Miller of Brow. "We just didn't get going until too late."
Valdosta fell into the consolation bracket and will play at 2 p.m. today, the first time in eight years at the tournament the Wildcats won't play for the title.
Searching for points
A scoreless first quarter left the Valdosta girls basketball team in a hole, one the Wildcats couldn't recover from, losing 51-39 to Cairo.
That means the Wildcats (6-5) have an early wakeup call today, meeting Brooks County at 9:30 a.m. in a consolation contest. Brooks County had just nine points in the first half of its matchup with Thomas County Central en route to a 47-27 defeat. Kellye Burch scored eight and Tiffany Clemons added six.
VHS got nine points from Ashley Gaitor, yet self-destructed with 29 turnovers. Shooting 13-of-29 from the free-throw line didn't help, either.
"Those two there killed us," said coach Deidre Williams of the turnovers and free-throw shooting.
Shereka Evans provided a bright spot for the Wildcats, who went 0-3 last week at the Jones County Holiday Classic. The senior missed the first 10 games of the year with an ankle injury, but returned Monday with four points.
"She looked pretty good," Williams said. "She gives us quickness and another defensive player to help Ashley."
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