CARROLLTON — All Alecia North was looking for in the closing seconds of her game Saturday was a whistle.
The 5-foot-7 senior shooting guard was moving the ball quickly, the recipient of an outlet pass off a rebound. Carrollton hadn’t led to that point of the GHSA Class AAAA semifinal, and there was no guarantee that North’s team would have another possession.
As North crossed the foul line toward the basket, she went up for a shot. She was off balance, facing away from the basket once she finished her follow-through.
“At first, I was just trying to get them to call a foul, but they weren’t calling fouls, so I was just trying to get to the basket and get a good look,” North said.
The foul call? Not there. There wasn’t a defender close enough, although there was one in front of her.
The shot, which came off as sort of a behind-the-back effort? Right through the net. With 12 seconds to go, Carrollton had its first lead.
“I just went off reaction,” North said. “I didn’t see it. I was surprised, like everyone else was, that it went in.”
The crowd at the West Georgia Coliseum, which grew to 4,000 or so by game’s end with a game involving the Carrollton boys to follow, erupted. The 43-42 lead Carrollton took over Veterans became the final score when Anna Nicholson’s 3-point attempt at the other end just before the final horn bounced off the front rim.
“I think I need two days,” Carrollton head coach Shon Thomaston said when asked about the game’s final moments. “That seemed like how long it lasted.
“We didn’t play our best, but we found something deep inside at the end of the ballgame when we had to have it. Alecia is one for us offensively who is always attacking and looking to make something happen, and that was a classic example of what has happened all season. A lot of people saw that and figured it was luck, but I call that right on time.”
For Carrollton, it was a miracle. For Veterans, it was pure heartbreak in seeing its 30-2 season come so close to a trip to the Macon Coliseum, only to see that possibility crumble in a matter of seconds.Carrollton (25-7) advances to face Buford, a 51-39 winner over Fayette County earlier Saturday, in the GHSA Class AAAA championship game at 7 p.m. on Thursday.
“It was unfortunate that we were in that position,” Veterans head coach Nicole Miranda said. “We played really, really well. For her to make that shot, I’m sure she meant to make it, but it wasn’t one that usually goes in. It was very, very heartbreaking for our girls.”
North, who finished with a game-high 16 points, scored 10 in the game’s final six minutes as Carrollton pecked away at a double-digit lead Veterans established early. The Warhawks jumped out to a 10-0 start, holding Carrollton off the scoreboard for the first four minutes.
Carrollton added some size to its post game, bringing 5-foot-11 Erial Daniel in to complement 6-2 Emily Waters, and the Trojans kept the Warhawks in check for the rest of the half.
It wasn’t until the second half, however, that Carrollton started to make a dent in Veterans’ lead. The Warhawks had a double-digit lead as late as the final minute of the third quarter. But the Warhawks, thanks in large part to Carrollton’s inside presence, went on a 4:47 drought that extended halfway through the fourth quarter.
Carrollton went on an 8-0 run during that time, closing to within two and setting up the nailbiter of a finish.Nicholson and Khayla Owens each scored 10 to pace Veterans.
“I would describe (North’s shot) as completely out of control and just thrown up there,” Miranda said. “But that’s how the game works. Sometimes the ball goes in like that, and when you’re right under the goal, it doesn’t. It’s so exciting to watch. It’s the game that we love.
“We had a lot of good looks in the fourth quarter that didn’t go for us. But the girls played their hearts out.”