“We really played with a lot of resiliency tonight,” head coach Sheroderick Smith said. “We got up and got complacent; we definitely played like a team that hasn’t had any practice. That’s why you’ve got to just take a win like this and just keep moving forward. My hat is off to Notasulga; they are a program of a championship caliber, great fans and a lot of pride. One thing we have established here at Winterboro is the girls know how to win. Mentally, they might feel like they lost and that is really the mark of a champion.”
Last season, Winterboro advanced to the Central regionals with a 76-64 win against Notasulga led by a furious second-half effort by Jasmine Richardson, who finished the game with 37 points.
This year, Richardson topped that effort with 39 points, 29 of which came in the second half.
While the second half was even-keeled, the first half was filled with wild swings in momentum.
Winterboro opened the game with a dominating 16-2 lead. Nadia Estelle put the Lady Bulldogs on the scoreboard by hitting one of two free throws. Richardson had the first basket of the game with a two-on-one in which she faked a pass and finished strong for a layup to give Winterboro a 3-0 lead. Anslea Twyon capped the run with a 3-pointer with 4:26 left in the quarter, prompting Notasulga to call a timeout while facing a 16-2 deficit.
However, Notasulga finished the quarter on a 16-2 run to leave the two teams at an 18-18 stalemate. Shontrice Avery hit a shot from the corner to start the run and Alexandria James capped the run with a pull-up jumper to tie the game, 18-18.
Smith said he fully expects his team to put in a lot of work in the gym in the next few days to correct errors committed over the course of the game. Despite Richardson’s overall strong performance, Smith saw some needed improvements given the stiff competition in Montgomery.
“Jasmine, we’ve seen that from her all the time, but she has got to stay out of foul trouble,” he said. “She did a lot of things that were not smart tonight. We have to really, really press upon that for the next few days and get ready for Tuesday’s game against Holy Spirit. My student section did an outstanding job holding us back tonight. They didn’t give up on us; they had faith. Jasmine got a couple of hard fouls at the end of the game and she stuck through it as much as she could. We needed that game to get things back under the belt. I don’t anticipate a lot of these mental lapses we had tonight. Notasulga missed a few practices, so everybody was kind of in the same boat. We can’t use that as an excuse either.”
Notasulga gained their first lead of the game at the start of the second quarter with a 3-pointer by JyBriek’a Lindsay. With 6:20 left in the quarter, James had a rebound and put back to give Notasulga a 25-18 lead, prompting Winterboro to call a timeout.
The timeout proved to be effective as Winterboro ended the first half on an 8-1 run to regain the lead, 38-32. Richardson started the run by pulling down a defensive rebound and going coast-to-coast for a layup. Richardson capped the run by grabbing a loose ball on defense, driving down the court and managing to sidestep a defender to avoid a charge and bank two points.
The third quarter proved to be the difference in the game. The team opened the quarter on a 12-2 run with Twymon starting the run with a basket while driving inside the lane. Richardson capped the run with a block on defense, an offensive rebound and two successful free throws after drawing a foul, giving Winterboro a 50-34 lead. She continued to be both an offensive and defensive force, grabbing a defensive rebound and finishing with a finger roll layup on the opposite end of the court to give Winterboro a 52-35 lead.
Richardson scored Winterboro’s first points of the fourth quarter by hitting a 3-pointer to give Winterboro a 64-46 lead.
Richardson finished as the game’s leading scorer with 39 points, as well as an unofficial tally of 10 rebounds and five assists. Twymon was second on the team with 17 points and was honored after the game after reaching a plateau: 1000 points.
“One thing I’ve always instilled in Anslea: I don’t want any player in my program to get a big head,” Smith said. “I grew Anslea the right way and she had a player in front of her who showed her the right things. I always told Anslea to make good mistakes and no-pressure basketball. This year, she finally blocked out any outside influence that was going to affect her game. It still gets to her just a little bit, but this year that is why she is excelling so much because she is confident in herself and she knows that I don’t put any pressure on her. I’m going to coach her up and I’m going to coach her hard; she’s very coachable. The 1000 points kind of snuck up on me. She is very, very deserving of it. We’ve got options; Anslea is one of the options that I’ve been talking about for the last three years.”
Tiffany Vincent was a force for the team in rebounding, but also finished with 15 points. Estelle contributed 12 points.
For Notasulga, James led the team with 25 points.
Winterboro will play Holy Spirit at Dunn-Oliver Acadome in Montgomery Tuesday with tipoff scheduled for 3 p.m.