Carson’s buzzer beater sends Lady Bears to BirminghamPublished 1:45am Friday, February 22, 2013
MONTGOMERY — After trailing most of the way, it was a buzzer-beating shot by Stephanie Carson that completed the comeback and lifted the Keith Lady Bears to a 45-44 victory over the Loachapoka Lady Indians on Thursday to claim the Class 1A Central Regional Championship and advance to the Final Four.
The Lady Bears (30-3) trailed 35-22 entering the fourth, but cut the deficit down to 44-40 with 50 seconds left to play.
Keith got closer when Carson buried a 3-pointer, her first made basket of the night after starting off 0 for 8, making it a 44-43 game with 30 seconds left to play.
Keith fouled and sent Loachapoka’s Teva Stinson to the free throw line with eight seconds remaining.
Stinson missed the first of the one-and-one and Keith’s Quiomila Johnigan got the rebound and got it to Harriet Winchester.
Winchester drove the ball the length of the court, got behind the arch, and kicked it out to a wide-open Carson, who banked in the mid-range shot as time expired, punching the Lady Bears’ ticket to Birmingham in the process.
Carson said she just wanted to win, and took the opportunity to shoot it.
“I wanted to win. I wanted to make the shot to win. I wanted somebody to shoot it, but I was open, so I took it,” Carson said. “I prayed that it would go in, and it did. It felt like I had saved somebody’s life, like we won the championship already. I’m just ready to play again now.”
Lady Bears head coach Cecil Williams said the Lady Indians (23-4) came out strong, but he knew his team had a comeback in them.
“First half, we started off a little slow. Lochapoka, they jumped out on us running. First, I want to take my hat off, they came prepared,” Williams said. “We lost one of our bigs Monday — she [Dasheena Thomas] tore her ACL — and we had to improvise and put people in her spot. It’s not the first time we’ve been down, so honestly I knew they had the fight in them. We’ve been down before by 19 or 20 twice, and we’ve come back and won. I knew that we had it in us. After we came out of halftime, they kind of dug inside of themselves and got a whole lot. We gained our composure the second half.”
Keith trailed 35-24 entering the fourth, but baskets by Lyteisha Phillips, Winchester and a few free throws by Zykia Pettway helped them make it a 40-29 game with 4:49 remaining.
Keith got the score down to 40-33 after Winchester hit baskets on back-to-back trips up the court.
Normesha Pitts made it a 42-33 game after a shot under the basket for the Lady Indians, but the Lady Bears scored the game’s next seven points, with one free throw made each by Phillips, Pettway, and Shatavia Moore, and a jump shot by Winchester helping to make the score 42-40 with 2:33 left.
Nautika Philpot scored on a fast-break layup to put the Lady Indians’ lead at 44-40 before Carson hit her 3-pointer.
Winchester, a freshman who took tournament most valuable player honors, said the win was a big accomplishment for a young Lady Bears team.
“This is our first time going [to Birmingham], and we’re young, so this accomplishment, we did well to get past the regionals,” Winchester said. “Now we’re going to the big, big stage. We just have to know what we’re doing, keep our composure, play with the same tempo and play our game.”
Winchesther had 22 points, six rebounds, three blocks and two steals for the Lady Bears, while Pettway, a freshman who was also named to the all-tournament team, had 10 points, 12 rebounds and six steals for Keith.