Basketball coaches pride themselves on little things like the strategy behind taking a timeout at the right time to turn a game’s momentum.
Trailing rival Mount de Sales by a point with less than a minute remaining Tuesday night, Ed Smith leaped into the air, screaming for such a timeout.
The Stratford girls head coach’s plea sent his necktie askew and nearly knocked over the soda he keeps perched beside him on the courtside table. Yet, his request went unheeded by the referee.
It was the first time in his career that Smith said he could remember a timeout he wasn’t granted actually working in his favor.
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In lieu of a whistle, Stratford’s Sloan Sibley stole the ball on an inbound pass before being fouled with 49.1 seconds remaining, then stepped to the line and drained two free throws to give the Eaglettes their first lead of the night en route to a 34-28 victory over the region-leading Lady Cavaliers.
“I guess I can’t get too mad about (not getting the timeout),” Smith said. “I tried to call it too late anyway.”
Stratford (12-7, 4-3 GISA Region 2-AAA) exploded for 21 points in the fourth quarter to end Mount de Sales’ 11-game winning streak.
The Eaglettes found it difficult in the first half to penetrate the Lady Cavaliers’ staunch defense and get the ball into the post. In the third quarter, however, Smith put his two tallest players -- Harbor Hicks and Bonnie Jarrard -- on the floor at the same time. The strategy pulled Stratford to within three points midway through the final quarter.
Then, Mount de Sales (15-5, 6-1) pushed the lead to seven and looked firmly in control.
“That was a huge possession for us,” Smith said. “We came right down the floor, and Hicks got a putback for us. Had (Mount de Sales) extended it to nine points right there, we were in trouble. That got it back between the ditches for us.”
After trading baskets, Stratford’s Caroline Avant hit a jumper to cut the deficit to two points with 2:47 to play before Hicks, who lead the Eaglettes with 11 points, picked up her fourth personal foul.
“In that kind of region game, I had to keep her in the game,” Smith said. “It wasn’t a tough decision ... just roll the dice.”
Dana Rose’s free throw pushed the Lady Cavaliers’ lead to three before Catherine Chambliss’ bucket set up Sibley’s pivotal sequence.
“I wasn’t even thinking steal there,” said Sibley, who finished with four points. “I was just trying to concentrate on trapping once they passed it in.
“Going to the line was scary. I was nervous.”
Clutch free-throw shooting allowed Stratford to seal the game. The Eaglettes were 11-for-12 from the line in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, the Lady Cavaliers couldn’t find their mark.
“We had opportunities,” Mount de Sales head coach Mia Washington said. “We just didn’t capitalize. Against a team that plays defense like (Stratford) did, you have to capitalize.”
Maggie Midkiff led the Lady Cavaliers with a game-high 13 points.
In the boys game, Stratford finished off the sweep with a 57-51 win. Emery Longan led Stratford with 12 points, while Christian Dickey led Mount de Sales with 16.