October 20, 2018

Lady Champs! Braves Capture Region 5-AA Title in Overtime Thriller

The 2015-2016 Region Champion Lady Braves: FRONT (L-R): L.J. Kelley (Mgr), Alexis Nelms, Haley Bennett, Alexus Crawford, Emily Iddins, Sage Kelley BACK (L-R): Ellie Googe (Mgr.), Gabby Owensby (Mgr.) Coach Shaqueri Talmadge, Alyssa Copser, Kimberly Harris, Hannah Sanders, Jordan Watson, Madison Whitehead, Kemaiya Brewer, Ally Harris, Coach Samantha Dixon, Head Coach Helen Akins

The 2015-2016 Region Champion Lady Braves: FRONT (L-R): L.J. Kelley (Mgr), Alexis Nelms, Haley Bennett, Alexus Crawford, Emily Iddins, Sage Kelley BACK (L-R): Ellie Googe (Mgr.), Gabby Owensby (Mgr.) Coach Shaqueri Talmadge, Alyssa Cosper, Kimberly Harris, Hannah Sanders, Jordan Watson, Madison Whitehead, Kemaiya Brewer, Ally Harris, Coach Samantha Dixon, Head Coach Helen Akins

(Manchester, GA) — A gutsy performance and never-say-die attitude propelled the Lady Braves to a scintillating 43-42 overtime win at Manchester Saturday night in the Region 5-AA Women’s Championship game.

As they have all season, the Lady Braves fought hard and never surrendered despite trailing the defending 5-AA champion Lady Angels several times in the very physical game.

After the Lady Braves opened the second quarter with a 7-0 run to take a 15-8 lead, the Angels stormed back with a 14-1 run of their own to lead by six at the half.

The Angels extended that lead to 12 with 4:57 to play in the third quarter before the Lady Braves stormed back to close the gap to just two entering the fourth period.

As second year Brave coach Helen Akins had predicted earlier in the week, the match-up proved to be a wild and physical battle with several lead changes late in the game.

Regulation would not be enough time to decide a winner as the Angels were unable to score at the end of regulation after senior Lady Brave Madison Whitehead tied the game with a free throw with 31 seconds to play.

Two free throws from junior Kimberly Harris gave the Braves the lead for good with just over a minute to play in overtime. The Lady Brave defense again responded by stopping the Angels last-ditch effort to score as time expired.

It was a nice redemptive moment for a Lady Brave squad that had lost seven straight games to their region rivals including two losses during the regular season and a region title game loss last season. A large contingent of Heard County supporters that made the trip to Manchester witnessed the thrilling finish to the region season.

Coach Akins was once again pleased with the gritty effort of her girls in such a physical game and an emotional road environment.

“This could not have happened to a better group of kids. These girls don’t play perfect all the time as you could tell tonight but the one thing they do have is heart and they just fight and fight and fight and somehow find a way to win,” said Akins after the game.

“I am just so proud of these girls — especially our three seniors Jordan Watson, Madison Whitehead, and Kemaiya Brewer — they played their tails off tonight.”

Akins gives a lot of credit to the Angels for a strong effort in the loss.

“Manchester is just so tough and physical defensively — they take you out of everything you want to do — so to be able to get out of that with some composure at the end and be able to hit a couple of key free throws and put it away with some good defense — I was just super, super proud of my girls tonight,” Akins stated.

Statistically, Kimberly Harris led the Lady Braves with 16 points and 12 rebounds followed closely by Whitehead with 15 points. Watson led the way in rebounding with 17 to go along with her five points offensively. Brewer also scored five including three of four from the charity stripe.

Senior Sequoyah Dunlap led the Angels with 14 points including three highly contested 3-point baskets. The Lady Braves’ strong defense held Region 5-AA regular season MVP Ternazha McGruder to just seven points for the Angels.

After the Region 5-AA trophy presentation, the girls celebrated with a post-game meal at Wendy’s before returning to HHS to cut down the nets in their own gym.

The region title is the Lady Braves’ first since the 2011-2012 season. That championship squad which featured Reece Walker, Jasmine Cook, Aaliyah Rutledge, and the Parks’ twins defeated Decatur and Calhoun in the state playoffs to earn a spot in the state quarterfinals before falling to the powerhouse Buford Lady Wolves at the Northwest Georgia Trade Center in Dalton.

The Lady Braves (21-5) are hoping to make a similar run in the post-season and will now host Washington-Wilkes (8-17) in the first round of the state playoffs Tuesday night at 6:00 PM at HHS.

The Lady Tigers lost to Social Circle 37-33 in Saturday night’s Region 8-AA consolation game at Rabun County and enter the state tourney as the No. 4 seed from that region.

The Lady Braves defeated Social Circle 32-28 during a regular season tournament at Locust Grove. The Redskins are the only common opponent this season for the two teams.

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