By Chris McCarthy/Editor
With just under two seconds left in regulation and the ball at halfcourt, it looked as if the girls’ championship game of the Etowah County Schools basketball tournament would be decided in overtime last Friday (Jan. 20) at Glencoe.
Amanda Noah had other ideas.
Stationed several feet beyond the three-point line, the Hokes Bluff High junior guard caught an inbound pass from Sydney Ball and fired off a shot.
The ball banked off the backboard and through the net just as the buzzer sounded, giving the Class 4A No. 4 Lady Eagles (18-4) a 33-30 victory and the program’s sixth straight county title.
“With two seconds left, I knew that there was nothing to lose,” said Noah, who finished with eight points. “I hadn’t hit a 3 all game, so I just let it go. It’s definitely the biggest shot that I’ve made that late in a game. [Winning six straight county championships] is something that no one’s ever done before. It’s almost like going to a state championship, and it’s something we come for every year.”
Hokes Bluff head coach Jason Shields wasn’t surprised that Noah had the confidence to get off an attempt that was on target from such a long distance.
“Amanda knew how much time was on the clock and knew what she was able to do. Most of the time, we don’t even get off a shot [in that situation]. It was a hard-fought battle that could have went either way, and we just happened to have the ball at the end.
“[Southside’s] very athletic, and you don’t get many quality shots against them. The other good thing near the end was that [Southside] had four fouls to give and they couldn’t put us on the [free throw] line.”
With both teams playing lockdown defense for most for the game, neither squad attempted many quality shots, and not many of those attempts found their mark. The score was tied seven times and the lead changed hands eight times.
Alex Thompson’s three-pointer at the 1:42 mark of the third quarter provided the Class 6A No. 9 Lady Panthers (17-3) with a 24-19 advantage, the biggest lead either team had all game.
Hokes Bluff responded to West’s trey with a basket from Noah and a traditional three-point play from Tournament MVP Tylynn Register to force a 24-24 tie after 24 minutes. Register scored eight of her 12 of the points in the third period.
The Lady Eagles went back ahead early in the fourth on respective baskets by Register and Noah. Kendall Johnson’s lay-up with 2:31 remaining put Hokes Bluff up 30-27, but Southside kept within striking distance with a pair of foul shots from Thompson, and her basket with just under a minute left tied the game.
The Lady Eagles drained some time off the clock before missing a shot. The Lady Panthers got the rebound but a subsequent jump shot was off the mark. The ball went out of bounds off Southside, setting Noah’s game-winner.
“It was a great defensive battle and both teams played very hard,” said Southside head coach Kim Nails. “It could have gone either way at the end, and [Hokes Bluff] hit a halfcourt shot to win it, so I guess it must have been their night tonight. This was the third time in (the last) three weeks that we’ve played each other, so we knew their tendencies and they knew ours.”
Kelsey Patterson and Harley Simmons each scored nine points for Southside, followed by Thompson and Mallory Smith with seven each and Lauren Hunt with six.
The Lady Panthers emerged from a back-and-forth first quarter with an 8-7 lead. A pair of lay-ups from Johnson put Hokes Bluff up by three points midway through the second period before Patterson’s basket with a minute left sent the teams into the break tied at 12-12.
Ball scored 11 points for Hokes Bluff.
“I think that Glencoe won it five times in the early ’80s, so this was something that we were a little hungry for,” added Shields. “And the thing about it is, it’s been down to the
wire all six years.”
Joining Register on the all-tournament team were Noah, Ball and Johnson from Hokes Bluff; Patterson, Simmons and Smith from Southside; Anna Beth Giles and Lauren Cole from Glencoe; Carley Gardner and Meg Wardrup from Sardis; and Tamia Timmons from West End.