By Joshua Price/Sports Editor
It took an overtime session to decide the winner of a match of Class 3A powerhouses in Northeast Regional semifinal girls basketball on Feb. 22.
Second-ranked Pisgah defeated tenth-ranked Hokes Bluff, 78-73. The Lady Eagles finished the season 28-5, while Pisgah improved to 29-3.
Hokes Bluff trailed, 48-38, at the end of the third quarter.
Carlie Shields connected on a pair of free throws with 55 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to give Hokes Bluff its first lead of the game since the second period, 63-61.
Pisgah guard Emily McCarson connected on a jumpshot moments later to tie the match at 63-63.
Hokes Bluff head coach Jason Shields called timeout with 23 seconds remaining in regulation to setup a game-winning shot. The result was a turnover, as the pass sailed far from the reach of center Malory Moland.
“We had a chance to win it in regulation,” Shields said. “I felt like I could have done a better job so we could get a shot off.”
Hokes Bluff point guard Savannah Ward scored 11 of her team-high 22 points in the fourth quarter as the Lady Eagles rallied to outscore Pisgah, 25-15, and force the extra period.
Pisgah jumped to an early lead in overtime behind the efforts of guard Tesia Williams, who scored seven points in the extra period.
Shields was forced to give up defensive aggression to keep his top scorers in the game. All but one of Hokes Bluff’s starters began the fourth quarter with four fouls each, the other with three fouls.
Shields said this effected the play of the defensive-oriented Eagles.
“We couldn’t be as aggressive as we wanted to be. We could rotate [players] because we were out of timeouts. We were hurried up and couldn’t get setup defensively.”
Hannah Evans hit two free throws with 32 seconds remaining to cut the Pisgah lead to 75-73.
Kennedy Houser and Ella Denes each netted free throws with less than 20 seconds remaining to seal the win.
Ward led Hokes Bluff with 22 points, followed by Shields with 21. Evans scored 13. Moland netted 12 points and 12 rebounds. Summer Wilson pulled 10 boards.
Dallas Gilley led Pisgah with 23 points, while Houser scored 19 and pulled 11 rebounds.
Shields said the pace of the game was major factor in its outcome.
“We didn’t like the pace of the game, but we adjusted to it. I didn’t want to speed the pace of the game up any more than they wanted to. I thought that if we did we would get into a game we didn’t want to play, but we had to because we were down. When we had to, I felt like we did a great job at it.
“We’re a defensive team and its hard to get established in a half court defensive set in such a fast game. We tried, but they speed you up so much and its hard.”
Shields praised the play of Ward, of the team’s leaders.
“Savannah played great in the second half,” Shields said. “She is one of those people who loves a challenge. If anything in life challenges her she will step right up and face it. She always steps up and meets the challenge.”
Hokes Bluff trailed by eight points with 2:30 remaining in regulation.
“Our girls didn’t want it to end and just kept coming at them,” Hokes Bluff head coach Jason Shields said. “It took a lot of heart to get back in the game late when we did.”
“I told them at the beginning of the year. When the game is over with, if you lay it all out there as a competitor then that’s what its all about. It’s supposed to hurt when you lose. If it don’t hurt, then you didn’t put a lot into it.”
Shields is proud of his team’s efforts this season.
“I am proud of our team. They played a heck of a game. Once you challenge them they stand up to it. They never quit. Their hearts were in it the whole game, we just came up a little short. I couldn’t ask for a better effort. I am as proud of this team as any team I’ve ever had.”