By Chris McCarthy/Editor
The third time was the charm for the Gadsden City High girls basketball team on Tuesday (Dec. 6).
Facing Hewitt-Trussville in their Class 7A, Area 7 opener, the Lady Titans posted a 65-61 victory after battling tooth and nail through regulation and three overtime periods.
The outcome was finally decided in the final minute of the third extra session. After the Lady Huskies drew within 63-61 with 30 seconds left, Gadsden City passed the ball until the visitors were forced to foul.
That foul sent Haley Troup to the charity stripe, where the senior guard calmly knocked down both attempts to make it a two-possession game and secure the win.
Troup finished with a game-high 27 points. She went 6-for-8 at the foul line.
“I knew that if I hit those last two free throws that [the game] would be over with for sure,” said Troup, who signed with South Carolina last month. “At that point, it was just all the practice shooting [free throws]. That’s the moment that I want to be in, and I’m glad that I could capitalize.
“That was a pretty intense and physical game, and mentally I’m drained,” she added. “But in the moment, my adrenaline kept me going, and that’s what I’ve been practicing for a long time and I kind of pulled it together. Our whole area is solid, so every game is going to be a hard game.”
Gadsden City almost didn’t make it out of regulation, as the Lady Titans were down by five points with less than four minutes remaining.
But Hewitt-Trussville did not score again in the in the fourth quarter, and Burn’s steal and resulting lay-up with 1:17 left tied the contest at 46-46.
A pair of baskets by Brittney Watts in the first overtime provided the hosts with a 51-49 lead, but Morgan Kirk’s free throw with six seconds left forced a tie.
The visitors, however, had two opportunities to win the game after time had expired. First, the Lady Titans were whistled for a technical foul with 3.7 on the clock. Kirk missed both foul shots. Kirk was then fouled on her shot attempt at the buzzer but came up empty on those attempts as well.
In the second OT session, Kyanna Rigby’s basket at 1:40 gave GCHS a 53-52 advantage before London Coleman’s two foul shots with 21 seconds left made it 55-54 in favor of the Lady Huskies.
Burns was then fouled, however, and her free throw with 7.5 seconds left set up yet another overtime period.
Burns ended up with 16 points while Brittney Watts added 11.
“As the intensity of the game went up, my energy went up,” said Burns, who signed with UT-Chattanooga in November. “I sort of got a second win for the overtimes. Mentally, I felt pretty good the whole time. I’m just glad that I was able to keep going to the basket and going to the [foul] line. It was ugly, but I’m glad that we won.”
Gadsden City quickly regained the lead in the third OT on a Troup three-pointer and two more free throws from Burns, and Darrelyn Rudolph’s steal and ensuing foul shot made it 61-55 with 2:09 left. Kenya Gueye’s basket with 37 seconds remaining restored the host’s four-point lead before a pair of foul shots by Kirk drew Hewitt-Trussville within 63-61. Troup’s free throws eventually put away the Lady Huskies.
GCHS head coach Jeremy Brooks noted that it had been at least five years since one of his teams played into triple overtime.
“Free throws usually are a big factor in these types of games, and luckily we made the right ones at the right times,” he said. “Fatigue sets in when you play for that long, and it’s mentally and physically draining. Haley and Brooke really stepped up, and they had to be extremely tired at the end because they both played a lot of minutes (in regulation). We also had some players make some plays that don’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet, and you need those types of contributions to wins games like this one.”
Gadsden City started off the game on a 10-3 run before the Lady Huskies narrowed the gap to 12-8 after one quarter.
The Lady Titans went ahead 21-20 in the second period but Hewitt-Trussville took a 24-21 lead into halftime.
The visitors stretched their advantage to eight points midway through the third quarter before GCHS closed within 36-30 after 24 minutes.
That’s when Burns and Troup spearheaded the comeback. The senior backcourt combined for 14 of the Lady Titans’ 16 fourth-quarter points to set up the overtime sessions.
Coleman led Hewitt-Trussville with 24 points, followed by Kirk with 13 and Christine Till with 11.
“We started off the game really well and got an early lead, and then we hit a skid for a while,” said Brooks. “The game was on the verge on getting out of hand, and we were able to respond and fight back. We definitely have to clean some things up and continue to get better, but I feel that we’re pretty battle-tested so far.”