KATHLEEN -- Khalya Owens has been through two close GHSA first-round playoff losses in the past two years.
And once again Tuesday, her Veterans team was facing elimination in a first-round Class AAAA game against Bainbridge.
But with the score tied at 58 and only 18 seconds left in the game, Owens posted up Patra Parris, the tallest player on the Bearcats’ team, took the pass and spun toward the middle of the paint and hit the shot. After Bainbridge missed a 3-point attempt, Tiana Hughes hit two free throws to seal a 62-58 win, advancing Veterans to the second round.
“I posted up hard, and my team did a great job of getting me the ball,” said Owens, who led the Warhawks with 13 points. “I was hoping to make the shot, but I thought I would at least get to the free-throw line. When I saw it go in, it was a great feeling because I was pretty sure we were finally going to get through to the next round.
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“I don’t think we played very good, and maybe we were a little nervous, but I know that we will play much better the rest of the way.”
Bainbridge was the No. 4 seed from its region, but it won 21 games. The two teams were tied at 10 midway through the first quarter, but Veterans, behind two 3-pointers from Carrington Kee, outscored the Bearcats 11-2 to take a 21-12 lead at the end of the quarter.
Veterans stretched the lead to 12 at 24-12 early in the second quarter, but Bainbridge would not go away. It outscored Veterans 14-7 during the next three minutes to cut the Warhawks’ lead to 31-26 on a Nadia Marshall free throw. But Veterans, which shot 50 percent from the field in the first half, opened up its lead to 40-32 by the end of the quarter.
Bainbridge continued to pressure Veterans and cut the Warhawks’ lead to one at 44-43 when Parris scored inside, but a minute later, Parris, who led Bainbridge with 19 points picked up her fourth foul. With Parris on the bench, the Warhawks scored the final four points of the quarter for a 48-43 lead heading into the final quarter.
Bainbridge scored the first five points of the fourth quarter, getting a 3-pointer from Alex Carter to tie the game at 48 and took their first lead of the game at 52-50 on a Marshall basket. Veterans fought back, scoring the next five points to take a 55-52 lead with four minutes left in the game. Bainbridge tied the game up at 58, however, on a Parris basket with 30 seconds left, setting up the game-winner for Owens.
Anna Nicholson and Hughes both added 10 points for Veterans, which advances to play another home game Friday.
“We knew that Bainbridge would be a great test for us, and there are really no easy games in the state playoffs,” said Veterans head coach Nicole Miranda, whose team improved to 28-1. “Bainbridge forced turnovers and were much quicker than they looked on film, but at this time of year, it’s survive and advance. This is just a huge win for our basketball team.”