Things looked rather bleak for St. James when they trailed 23-2 early in the second quarter of the Lady Wildcats’ District 9-3A playoff opener against E.D. White on Monday night in Vacherie.
It turned out to be a jubilant bunch of Lady Wildcats when Rayonna Sterling hit the game-winning free throw with 1.8 seconds left to lift SJH to an improbable 44-43 triumph.
After falling behind by 21 points less than two minutes in the second quarter, St. James (12-13) spent the rest of contest getting back in the game.
Having scored only three points heading into the fourth quarter, Sterling’s second basket of the period gave St. James its first lead of the game at 43-41 with 1:08 left in the game.
E.D. White (15-12) quickly responded with a basket by Caroline Adams with 40 seconds left in the game.
Sterling was fouled while driving to the basket and sent to the line for two free throws.
The Lady Cardinals called timeout prior to Sterling’s first free-throw attempt, which she eventually missed.
“It kind of froze me. I didn’t know what to do. When I missed the first free throw, I just had to listen to my teammates and count on them that they would have my back if I made it or missed it,” said Sterling.
Sterling hit the second free throw to give her team the win.
“It was nerve racking. Missing the first free throw, I had to hold it down for my team,” Sterling said.
“Sometimes the ball just bounces your way. We had the momentum from the second quarter on. We kept it and I think that was a big part of it. We were able to keep the momentum even when they were able to score and make plays, we still came right back. We never stopped battling,” St. James coach Damon Robinson said.
The win advances the Lady Wildcats to the tournament finals which will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at the St. James gym. St. James will take on Donaldsonville, which defeated Lutcher 54-41.
St. James dug itself a deep hole in the first quarter, managing to score only two points in the period as the Lady Wildcats were unable to handle EDW’s full-court press.
The Lady Wildcats’ only basket came at the 6:37 mark of the first quarter on a layup by AuKayla Dennis. By that point, the Lady Cardinals had scored seven points.
Following Dennis’ layup, EDW scored the final 12 points of the period to lead 19-2 after one quarter.
Carly Landry scored the first two baskets of the second quarter on a jumper and a layup after a turnover as EDW took its biggest lead of the game at 21 points with a 23-2 advantage.
“E.D. White came out to play. I think nerves was a big part of it. We stuck together. Some girls that don’t always get a lot of playing time stepped up big for us. That’s all you can ask for,” Robinson said.
It was at that point that the Lady Wildcats began to cut into the deficit.
Led by Raveon Fletcher’s 10 points in the quarter, the Lady Wildcats shaved the deficit to nine points at 31-22 by the end of the half as SJH finally found an answer for E.D. White’s press defense.
“I just told them to relax and be aggressive and have fun,” said Robinson.
EDW was limited to five points in the third quarter as the Lady Wildcats moved to within 36-33 heading in the final quarter.
A layup by Sterling tied the game for the first time at 39-39 with 2:12 left in the game and set the stage for her game-winning free throw.