Facing a 6-foot-5 player who is attracting attention from SEC and ACC programs is something of a rarity for Warner Robins, but that was the case Tuesday night against Harris County and Jessika Carter.
The Demons don’t have anywhere near the height to counter Carter, but for the second time this season, it didn’t matter.
Warner Robins got warm enough at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter and took advantage of some shaky ball-handling down the stretch for a 53-46 win in a battle of GHSA Region 1-5A contenders.
The Demons improved to 19-1 overall and 4-1 in region play while the Tigers fell to 16-4 and 3-2.
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The rematch was very similar to the first game, a 51-49 Warner Robins win.
Harris County took a 46-45 lead on Carter’s bucket low with 2:27 left, but the Tigers then struggled the rest of the way. They got possession on a tie ball, and gave it right back on a tie ball.
The Demons didn’t answer with points until the 1:15 mark on Kezia Holmes’ layup after Courtney Walker’s blocked shot. Walker then missed a pair of free throws nine seconds later.
Holmes finished it off at the line, going perfect on six free-throw attempts in the final 21.6 seconds. The Tigers were scoreless for the final 2:27, turning it over on consecutive trips after Carter missed the free throws.
Four who mattered
Holmes: The senior seemed agitated at times with how things were going, but she scored 28 points and sealed the game at the line after missing two free throws earlier in the quarter, including the front end of a one-and-one. She also had eight rebounds and seven steals.
Le’Terria Mathis: The senior had a surprise, with a presentation for her 1,500th career point, which she had no idea was coming. She hit the magic bucket with 18.4 seconds left in the third quarter on a putback. Mathis, a 5-8 guard, scored 987 points in her first two seasons at Dooly County before transferring to Warner Robins for the 2015-16 school year. She had 14 points and three assists.
Carter: The national recruit had 22 points, spread out fairly evenly throughout four quarters, but she had only two in the third. Unofficially, she had about a half-dozen blocks and 15 rebounds.
Courtney Walker: One of the Demons assigned to work on Carter, Walker helped be physical while coming up with five rebounds and four steals.
News to her: Mathis wondered why her former head coach at Dooly County inquired about Warner Robins head coach Tracy Fendley’s phone number. Mathis sent it to him and didn’t think much about it again. It hit her between the third and fourth quarters during a short ceremony — short because the mic wasn’t working — that she had scored her 1,500th point. She had cruised past 1,000 points last year and didn’t know it, but started thinking about it when she saw former teammates posting social media updates about 1,000 points.
Also Tuesday night
Warner Robins’ boys had enough control for head coach Jamaal Garman to empty the bench, but Harris County ended up making things interesting in the Demons’ 76-67 win.
The Demons led 40-28 at halftime but were outscored 27-13 in the fourth quarter. Riqueito Leonard had 10 of his team-high 21 points in the fourth quarter while Tailique Williams had seven of his 18 points
Jacolbey Owens had 18 points, all on 3-pointers, for Warner Robins while Jaydon Norman and Jam'l Dillard added 12 and Nelson Phillips 10.
The said it
Fendley on dealing with Harris County’s Carter: “Defensively, our post players played hard. They got after it. She’s 6-5. They did what they could with what they had. She had a little more will to her (Tuesday), I thought she played with more backbone … a little more grit. We probably did a better job defending her last time. She made some tough shots. She’s a phenomenal player.”
Mathis on Carter: “I didn’t play the first game because of my injury (fractured orbital and slight concussions). Standing beside her and playing against her on the court, she’s everything I thought she would be. She’s definitely big. She’s the best player I’ve seen since I touched the court.”
Fendley on the difference between the meetings: “We shot better from the free-throw line. We rebounded better.”
Mathis on the surprise of her milestone: “It’s crazy. About two weeks ago, I was talking to my mom. I was like, I’ve seen everybody I went to middle school with, they were, ‘I reached my 1,000 points.’ I’m like, how many points do I have? She gave me that look. She said, ‘You have over 1,000 points.’ How did she know. I didn’t put two and two together. I didn’t even know about 1,000.”
Warner Robins visits Bainbridge on Friday with a doubleheader.