The hole was deep early for Warner Robins, and for a while, it didn’t appear that the Demons would dig out of it. But then Veterans started digging, as well, and what could have been a huge upset turned into a thrilling game.
The shovels finally worked for Warner Robins, and it pulled out a 67-62 double-overtime win over Veterans in a GHSA Region 1-5A Tournament girls semifinal game. Warner Robins will play Bainbridge, a 60-36 winner over Harris County, in Saturday night’s championship game.
Victoria Brown’s coast to coast layup after a rebound put Warner Robins up 60-58 with 1:40 left in the second overtime. After a Veterans miss, she drove the left side for a bucket and added a free throw for a five-point lead at the 1:19 mark.
The Demons, who trailed 17-6 after a quarter, were able to hold on. They outscored Veterans 8-2 in the final 2:25 of regulation to force overtime with the Warhawks needing a Carrington Kee bucket with 31.1 seconds left to tie it.
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“We talked about it before the game, that they were gonna come ready to play,” Warner Robins head coach Tracy Fendley said of Veterans. “They went out and played well. They got after it defensively, they were scrappy.”
Warner Robins won the earlier meetings 57-39 and 63-41. This time, a rested Veterans team came out hard defensively.
“We just had a defensive game plan that the girls executed real well,” Veterans head coach Nicki Miranda said. “A couple of their girls got frustrated. We did a good job defensively of giving them one shot and making it something they were uncomfortable with.”
The Demons crept back into the game, and eventually whistles and free throws became huge.
Six Veterans players fouled out, five more than all season, and nobody from Warner Robins did. The foul differential was 39-22, and both teams struggled at the line — Warner Robins was 30-of-55 to 18-of-36 for Veterans.
Still, the young Warhawks had their chances.
“I couldn’t ask for a better effort,” Miranda said. “They’re a senior team, at home, the top seed.”
Warner Robins’ first lead came Kishara Howard’s heave underneath on an offensive rebound with 47 seconds left in regulation. Kezia Holmes’ 3 opened up overtime, but Veterans than scored six straight. The teams went scoreless the final 1:59 of the first overtime.
Kee’s 3 started off the next round for Veterans, but the Warhawks came up empty on three possessions while the Demons countered before the late 5-0 run that sealed it.
Fendley’s instructions to her team to get going were simple.
“We’ve got to do the little things,” she said. “We’ve got to box out, we’ve got to get the loose balls, we’ve got to play defense.
“It took them until the end of the game.”
Warner Robins boys 84, Bainbridge 71
Little was going to surprise Warner Robins boys basketball head coach Jamaal Garman in the Demons’ meeting with Bainbridge.
The Demons won the regular-season meetings, 59-51 and also 84-71. In that second game, the Bearcats were down 48-27 at halftime and battled back to make the score more competitive.
“I expected that type of game,” said Garman, whose team improved to 23-3. “A real close, tight, back and forth game. I knew Coach (Terry) Smith was going to bring it this time. I remember him from Crisp County, and all of his teams always play hard.”
This time around, they were closer longer, but a 27-point fourth quarter put the Demons in control. Warner Robins had balance in the final quarter with six players scoring.
One player who didn’t score in the fourth, or third, was standout wing Nelson Phillips. He came down on an ankle late in the first half and was hobbled, getting all of his 16 points in the first half.
The Demons still scored 40 points in the final two quarters against an amped Bainbridge team.
“It’s hard to beat a team three times, “said Garman, who watched the Bearcats go 19-for-23 from the free-throw line. “They brought it a whole lot more (Friday), a lot more intensity. They were intense before, but (Friday) it was like, state playoffs.”
Jaron Zanders had 15 for Warner Robins, while Jacolbey Owens added 13, Champ Dawson and Jam’l Dillard chipping in 12 each.
Now, Garman will face former assistant Nick Brooks, Veterans’ first-year head coach.
“Nah, he’s not going to sleep (Friday),” Garman said with a smile. “Neither will I.”
Veterans boys 60, Harris County 49
Harris County had pretty much no answer for Josh Linder. The 6-foot-9 senior had 34 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocked shots to lead Veterans into the championship game.
The Warhawks got off to a nice start and maintained it, outscoring the Tigers in each quarter.
Linder was 10-of-13 from the line. The Warhawks got 10 points and six rebounds from Dathan Boyd, while Craig Luckey added four assists.
The semifinal win was clutch revenge for Veterans (11-12). The Warhawks lost to the Tigers 85-82 on Jan. 10 and 61-56 on Feb. 3.