WARNER ROBINS -- Veterans is one step away from defending its girls Bear Brawl championship from a season ago, thanks to a 62-55 semifinal victory Saturday over Whitefield Academy at Houston County.
“It feels good because I didn’t think that was one of our better performances,” Veterans head coach Nicole Miranda said. “We struggled in a few areas, but a lot of it was because they’re a good basketball team and they were ready to play. I’m proud of the girls that they were able to find a way to win at the end.”
The game was close most of the way, but that wasn’t the case in the first quarter.
Veterans built a nine-point lead in the opening six minutes, thanks in part to eight points from Anna Nicholson. The junior scored the first six points of the game for the Warhawks but exited late in the quarter and didn’t return until just before halftime
“We were changing defenses a little bit and trying to pressure the ball a bit more,” Miranda said. “It was more or less that a lot of girls played a lot of minutes, and I told them early that I was going to move them in and out and reinforce them to keep our legs fresh for the end.”
Whitefield battled back in the second to trim its deficit to four, and the team took its first lead of the game with nine seconds remaining in the third quarter on a 3-pointer by Laren VanArsdale. The freshman point guard led all scorers with 30 points.
“They have a tough backcourt,” Miranda said. “Their guards are very talented. I wasn’t surprised how good they were after watching them play Warner Robins.”
Whitefield’s advantage was short-lived as Tiana Hughes gave Veterans the lead right back with a bucket on the opening possession of the fourth quarter. The Warhawks didn’t trail again.
After turning the ball over 19 times in the second and third quarters, Veterans committed just three in the final eight minutes to pull away.
“We started taking care of the basketball better,” Miranda said. “I thought in the fourth quarter that we got aggressive with (the basketball). We were able to slow the game down, make good decisions and get to the free-throw line.”
The victory continues a perfect start to the season for Veterans, as the Warhawks moved to 11-0.
“We’re real excited, but we’re going one game at a time,” Miranda said. “We’re trying to get better. Each team has presented us something different to work on. This is a solid group with good team chemistry and a lot of depth. We don’t lose much when we go to the bench, and I think that can help us be a special team.”