The Ware County Lady Gators completed a remarkable regular season last night in Richmond Hill by taking undfeated Effingham down to the wire before falling in a heartbreaker 44-41. The Lady Gators overcame major adversity, a hostile crowd, minus one starter and faced the Number one ranked and undfeated Lady Rebels in the finals of the 3AAAAA Region Championship.
Head Coach Mandy Lingenfelter: "We never stopped fighting...even until the very last shot at the buzzer! Let's pack the gym next friday night." Time and opponent to be announced later.
Ware 9 16 29 41
Effingham 17 20 29 43
Dinecia Howard - 26 pts; 14 boards; 2 assists; 4 steals
Sytia Mackey - 9 pts; 11 boards; 1 blk
Blake Crews - 4 pts; 4 boards; 2 assists; 1 steal
Bry Wilson - 2 pts; 4 boards; 2 assists; 2 steals
Below is the story about the game written by my good friend Patrick Donahue of the Effingham Herald:
Nene Howard came within a few inches of scoring 29 points Friday night against Effingham County.
Howard's half-court heave glanced off the rim as the final buzzer sounded, and the Lady Rebels escaped with a 43-41 win over Ware County in defense of their Region 3-AAAAA girls basketballcrown.
Effingham beat Richmond Hill on a late basket Thursday to advance to the region title game. The Lady Rebels got late baskets to pull ahead of the Lady Gators.
"There wasn't one moment in the last 48 hours that was easy," said Lady Rebels coach Curtis Stevens. "At times, it felt like nothing was going our way. Every look we got wouldn't fall. But I'm just proud of their effort and their mental makeup. They just stayed with it. They didn't question themselves, they didn't question the coaches. They just played their game and they believed in themselves."
Howard had 26 points, and her steal and three-point play with 2:35 to play in the game gave the Lady Gators their second lead of the game at 39-38.
"She's fearless. She puts it all out there," Ware County coach Mandy Lingenfelter said of her senior. "She doesn't hold anything back. She's awesome."
But Makayla Robinson snapped a 39-39 tie, banking in a turnaround jumper, and Jakayvea Akins scored on a layup after Ebony Hicklen's defensive rebound.
The Lady Rebels got off to a fast start, hitting eight of their first 12 shots. Akins knocked down a long 3-pointer just as the first quarter buzzer sounded to give Effingham a 17-10 lead.
Effingham, though, went nearly seven minutes before its next bucket, another Akins 3 for a 20-16 advantage. Howard had eight points in the third quarter, and her layup with 1:48 to go in the third quarter provided the Lady Gators with their first lead of the game, 25-24.
The Lady Rebels went back in front on Brooke Fowler's follow-up with 1:32 left in the third, and the lead grew to five, 34-29, early in the fourth quarter on Hicklen's buckete.
"We weren't nervous," said Robinson. "We came out playing hard and keeping our faith in our team."
Howard hit two free throws with 1.5 seconds left before getting her hands on an Effingham pass with just enough time to let a game-winning try fly.
"My hat goes off to her and all she does," Stevens said of Howard.
Sytia Mackey had nine points for the Lady Gators, who played without starter Daejha White.
Hicklen had 15 points, Robinson scored 13 and Akins added 12 for the No. 6-ranked Lady Rebels, now 26-2.