COVINGTON, Ga. - The Newton Lady Rams (11-6, 3-1) found a way to take a late single-digit lead with less than 30 seconds remaining and maintain it against the Shiloh Lady Generals (4-12, 0-4) in a pivotal 45-43 region win.
With the score 43-42 in favor of the Lady Generals, the Lady Rams made their way up the court with less than a minute to play. An errant pass that was intended for Lady Rams Ashanti Wright was deflected, and that led to an all-out scramble on the court.
Lady Rams quickly grabbed the ball and laid the ball in for an easy layup that gave her team a 44-43 lead. Freeman's clutch play did not end with that last-second bucket. With the Lady Generals looking to inbound the basketball and attempt to take back the lead, Freeman was able to get a hand on the inbound pass and deflect it off another Lady Generals.
When the referee signaled that it was the Lady Rams ball, they could feel that the game was theirs for the taking. The Lady Rams would milk the clock down, and one trip to the free-throw line by Maka'ya Cushion would give them a 45-43 lead, with just a few seconds left in the game.
Lady Rams head coach Tiffani Johnson did not have much to say about Freeman's late-game excellence but could not be more happy about the timing of her play.
"Timing. She was in the right place at the right time, and she was able to finish," Johnson said. "I'm glad to know we can win one and finish it out to lock in at the end. We made a lot of defensive mistakes, but we were able to hang in there enough to get the tip and finish the game out."
Despite the defensive struggles that Johnson mentioned above, The Lady Rams board play was what she attributed to the Lady Generals' ability to be able to get back in the game.
"It was the boards. The difference in the first quarter was that we were grabbing those boards and pushing the ball up and getting easy buckets, and all of a sudden, it just stopped," Johnson said. "Boards were our Achilles heel tonight, but our effort and hustle kept us in the game."
The Lady Rams started the game with a shutdown style of defense as the first quarter ended with the Lady Generals only mustering three points. The Lady Generals would slowly get better throughout the course of the game and would breakthrough in the second half.
This type of game reiterates a point that Johnson has made all season that her team needs to put together a complete game and play four strong quarters of basketball.
One player, who had an all-around dominant night for the Lady Rams was Maka'ya Cushion who led her team in points with 21, while also grabbing a few rebounds and steals. Johnson was pleased with her level of play and the contributions she made to help her team grind out the victory.
"She had a great, confident and controlled game. She led the game and never got flustered," Johnson said. "She made some mistakes but was able to continue through and keep playing. She didn't come out much, and that just speaks to her conditioning and tenacity as a player to push through that emotion and turmoil."
The Lady Rams will hope to build on this region success in their next match as they take on the Archer Lady Tigers at Newton High School on Friday, Jan. 10.