Myrtle almost completed an incredible comeback only to fall short in the 1A State Semi-Final Friday night.
The Lady Hawks faced off against one-seeded McAdams, and watched as the Lady Bulldogs raced to a 24-10 lead after the first quarter.
Led by Dierra Gilmore with three baskets from behind the arc, McAdams connected on four three-pointers in the first frame.
“We just didn’t play the first quarter,” head coach Chris Greer said. You can look at the stats, and the last three quarters we played basketball. They talk about run and gun, we like to run and gun, but we just couldn’t do it.”
Myrtle went on a 9-2 run in the second, as a three by Williamson cut the Lady Bulldogs’ lead to seven. Kierra Gilmore would respond with a three of her own, and the Lady Hawks would close out the half with free throws, finding themselves down 29-21 at the break.
“We realized that it was a beatable team, and it wasn’t like everyone said that no one could beat them,” Lady Hawks’ senior Diana Suarez said of the team’s motivation to work their way back into the game. “We realized that we could beat them.”
Neither team scored to until the 6:24 mark in the third, as McAdams rebuilt their lead.
The Lady Hawks closed the lead to five, 35-30 on a basket by Williamson, but the Lady Bulldogs would go a 10-5 run to hold the 46-35 advantage. Williamson cut the deficit to single digits with her three, only to have Kierra Gilmore respond immediately at the opposite end. Williamson closed the quarter with a basket, and the Lady Hawks found themselves down by nine, 49-40, heading into the final frame.
McAdams built up an 11-point lead midway through the fourth, but Myrtle never gave up as a basket by Halle Knowles started a 8-2 run by the Lady Hawks. Precious Ellington scored the last basket for McAdams, and Myrtle used costly mistakes by the Lady Bulldogs to position themselves for a possible shot at overtime.
With less than a minute left, Ellington had a steal for the Lady Bulldogs, and after being fouled, was unable to connect on either of her free throws. Kiana Cox’s basket cut the deficit to three, 57-54 with 4.7 seconds remaining in the game.
McAdams lost the ball on the inbounds play in front of Myrtle’s bench with 3.4 seconds left. With the ball, Myrtle called a timeout to draw up their final play.
“The last play, we were going to use Amber as a decoy and throw it to Diana and they weren’t going to even guard Aspriona,” Greer explained of the game’s final play.
Aspriona Gilbert took he final shot for Myrtle and missed, ending the Lady Hawks hopes for a state title.
“Aspriona can actually shoot a three, and we knew that they were going to be on Amber, and we couldn’t get to Diana, so why not have Aspriona take the wide open shot.”
Gilbert led the Lady Hawks with 14 points and six rebounds, while Williamson added 13 and Suarez 12.
The Gilmore sister’s led McAdams in the win with 17 apiece, and Ellington added eight.
Greer knows his team is losing three great leaders in the seniors, Williamson, Suarez and Beth Goolsby, and he’s appreciative of their hard work over the five years he has coached them.
“What you saw tonight was that they never gave up,” Greer said of the trio. “We’ve had good and bad times, but I tell you what, I thought we showed championship heart. These three girls, I would take them to a dogfight any day of the week. We were ready. We came out a little shell-shocked, and we’re not making any excuses, they beat us fair and square.”