“We got off to a slow start and I think we missed some key rebounds tonight,” Winterboro head coach Sheroderick Smith said. “We pulled within two or three points and we just couldn’t get those key rebounds that we needed to give us momentum. We have veteran players and we have to be a little more mentally tough than we were tonight. There were some frustrating moments; we had some distractions throughout the week. If you really want to go far, you have to fight through those things.”
Winterboro overcame a 12-point deficit to get back into the game thanks to the play of Jasmine Richardson and Tiffany Vincent in third quarter. Vincent scored a layup to cut their lead to 30-20 with 5:43. Richardson hit a 3 –pointer to cut the lead to 31-23.
Victoria Lavender hit a 3 –pointer of her own to give the Lady Titans a 34-23 lead.
Later in the quarter Richardson scored five straight points to cut the lead down to 36-30 with 3:09 left in the quarter.
Tamera Giles increased Holy Spirits lead to 38-30, back to back baskets by Richardson and Vincent to cut the lead down to from 38-34 going into the final period.
In the fourth quarter, Richardson showed the heart of a champion and she continued to battle and make big basket after basket. With 4:56 left in the game, she drained a 3-pointer to cut the lead 42-41 with 4:56 left in the game.
Holy Spirit responded with a run. Caroline Sisson was held in check most the night, but her only field goal was a 3-pointer to push the lead 45-41. Giles who 32 points and 17 rebounds on the night connected on back to back bank shots to increase their lead to 53-43 with 2:38 left in the game.
Morgan Merritt nailed a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 53-46. Richardson scored a layup off a turnover to make it 53-48. With 1:54 left in the game, Richardson hustled down the court for a big block which prevented a layup.
After being fouled in transition, Nadia Estelle connected on the first free throw to make it 53-49. She would miss the second attempt, but Richardson was there for the put back to make it 55-51 with 1:07 left in the game.
Twymon scored a layup to cut the lead to 55-53 with 27 seconds left. The Lady Bulldogs had two fouls to get into the bonus. Winterboro attempted to go for steals and then foul, which allowed time to run off the clock.
In the final 10 seconds, Winterboro allowed several seconds to ruin off between fouls. In their last out of bounds play of the Ariel Winn took up the sideline which ran the clock down to 1.5 seconds. Winn missed the front end of the one-and –one and Twymon rebounded the ball as time expired.
Richardson scored 21 of her 28 points in the second half.
“She had a great second half,” Smith said. “We have been in these situations before; this is not a situation that we haven’t been in. Our season was built tough for these scenarios and we have been in games where we had to get the key rebound and we got them. But should’ve, would’ve, could’ve, it is too late now. It’s good to have someone bring us back, but we still have to make those key plays down the stretch.”
Richardson said her teammates didn’t respond as she began to get going on the court.
“In the first half, we didn’t come out like we were supposed to,” Richardson said. “We have a lot of girls on the team that still get nervous when we come to the dome. I guess it is the atmosphere and they just freeze up. Usually I will pump them up like when I score and I start to get hyped they usually get hyped with me, but I don’t know what happened to them tonight.”
Missed opportunities also hurt the Lady Bulldogs as they shot 5-15 from free throw line.
“We shoot better free throws than that,” Smith said. “These same players have made free throws.”
Winterboro will be without three seniors next season: Richardson, Vincent and Chanel Phillips. Those three players played a major role in Winterboro girls basketball becoming relevant throughout the state of Alabama.
“Jasmine has been with me since my very first day at Winterboro,” Smith said. “She was the face of our program and she had a stellar career. Tiffany came to me as an eighth grader and she is one of the toughest players that I’ve had. Chanel really didn’t have good last few games defensively, but overall she was one of my better defenders. She played multiple sports for me as well. You never want to lose seniors, but seniors really have a lot to be proud. Of course you don’t want to leave in this manner right here, but they did achieve a lot success at Winterboro. I really wish they will go out and graduate, inspire for better things, to become productive citizens. I want them to understand that the game of basketball –that their high school career is over and now they have to move on to other aspect of things. You don’t want these days to come, but they have to come.”
The Lady Bulldogs finished the season with a 23-8 record.