On cold night, Jones’ late shot lifts FPD over Stratford

It’s rare that a team hopes for a Shaquille O’Neal-like game from the free-throw line.

But Stratford’s girls would have been happy with the NBA star’s career 52.7-percent mark from the line.

The Eaglettes made only one free throw in 13 attempts against FPD on Tuesday. The Vikings took advantage, getting the game-winning score from Jessie Jones with six seconds remaining for a 34-32 GISA Region 2-AAA victory.

It was the region opener for both teams. FPD improved to 15-3 overall, while Stratford fell to 14-3.

There was no such drama in the boys game. Stratford led from the start and rolled to a 73-39 win over FPD.

“We’ve worked on free throws a lot,” Stratford head girls coach Ed Smith said. “It’s just one of those things. We haven’t been very good at it for a while, the last few years.”

Those struggles helped prevent the Eaglettes from taking some control of the game. Stratford’s execution level dropped as the rivalry game wore on.

“We weren’t taking smart shots,” said Jones, whose team was 7-of-32 from the floor in the first half. “At the beginning of the game, I think our nerves got to us, definitely. After halftime, it was a little more like a normal, everyday game.”

Stratford led from the 5:10 mark of the first quarter to the 3:56 mark of the fourth. They managed only four points in the second quarter, going scoreless for the final 4:31 before halftime as FPD pulled to within a point.

The teams combined for 29 first-half turnovers.

The Eaglettes again appeared to take control when Morgan Long’s layup along the baseline gave them a 25-17 lead with 3:06 left in the third quarter.

Long made Stratford’s only successful free throw with 6:50 remaining in the game, breaking a streak of 10 straight misses.

But four points from Fran Johnson and a score low by Jones tied the score at 30 with 4:40 to go.

Johnson’s 19-footer and ensuing free throw put the Lady Vikings ahead 32-30, and they went into a stall with about 3:20 left in the game.

Mallory Long barely missed two steals, but she got it on the third try and tied the score with a layup with 31.4 seconds left. Long was fouled, but she missed the free throw.

FPD worked the ball around until Tori Maddox drove and dished to Jones on the left side, and she banked in a 14-footer.

“We try to get dribble penetration,” head coach Charlie Chase said. “You move to the open spot.”

Which Jones did.

“I really wasn’t nervous, to be honest,” said Jones, who had nine points. “I don’t know why. I’m always nervous.”

Caroline Conn’s long inbounds pass to Long short-hopped its target and the Eaglettes turned it over, sealing the win for FPD.

“We got what we wanted,” Smith said. “We just didn’t get the bounce.”

Stratford’s boys didn’t need many bounces with four players in double figures, led by David O’Shaughnessy’s 20 points, 12 coming on 3-pointers. Tyler Gibson scored 12 points, and the Eagles (13-4, 1-0) got 10 points each from Sims Holmes and Marquez Lemon.

Zach Jones paced the Vikings (2-13, 0-1) with 13 points.