The wins aren’t coming any easier, but the Winder-Barrow girls basketball team is getting it done.
The Lady Bulldoggs overcame a sluggish offensive performance Wednesday night and rallied in the fourth quarter for a 38-34 victory over Jonesboro in the second round of the GHSA Class AAAAAA playoffs.
With the win, Winder-Barrow advanced to the Elite Eight and will host Mays, the No. 2 seed from Region 5, likely on Tuesday. The game will be a rematch of last season’s Class AAAAA semifinal game, which the Lady Bulldoggs won prior to falling in the state championship game.
“We know they’re coming,” Winder-Barrow coach Brandon Thomas said after Tuesday’s win. “They’ve got an incredible player in (senior guard) Kamiyah Street. She can take over a game and everybody knows her. They press on defense really well so it’s going to be a challenge.”
The Lady Doggs (24-5) had to grind out the win Tuesday, finally going ahead for good on a Latrice Perkins basket with 4:10 left to play after entering the final period down two points, 28-26. They trailed 30-26 with 6:51 to go before going on a 7-0 run that proved to be the difference.
Perkins scored 7 of her 11 points in the fourth to lift the Lady Doggs. With Winder-Barrow up 35-34 and 46 seconds remaining, Perkins missed a free throw, but Jakayla Sullivan grabbed the rebound and, before falling out of bounds, dished it back to Perkins who laid it in off the glass to boost the lead to 37-34.
After Winder-Barrow turned the ball over on an attempted inbound pass with 22 seconds left, Jonesboro (15-15) had one more chance to tie it, but a 3-point attempt missed wide and Perkins grabbed the loose ball. She was fouled with 7 seconds and hit the first of her two free throws to seal the win.
“They frustrated us with their zone defense all night,” Thomas said of the upset-minded Lady Cardinals. “But you’ve got to just keep making plays and Latrice and Chellia (Watson, who also had 11 points) came up big down the stretch for us with some big buckets. I thought we did a pretty good job there late in the game of getting out in the middle on transition and scoring and playing good defense.
“Our girls played hard. We didn’t have our best game. We made some mistakes and they know that, but we’re going to keep plugging away.”
The Winder-Barrow home crowd was once again a factor and grew louder in the final minutes.
When the final horn sounded, the team was met by the Winder-Barrow boys team, which rushed the court to celebrate with the Lady Doggs.
“That was incredible,” Thomas said. “That was awesome. It’s just kids making memories and those things last. I thought our crowd was really incredible all night and our kids fed off that energy late.”
And so it’s on to the next leg of the mission. The Lady Bulldoggs entered the season determined to make it back to the state finals and win a title. They’re having to make another run without junior center Olivia Nelson-Ododa, who is out for the year with a knee injury, but with another hard-fought close win under their belt, they certainly have the look of a veteran team that has been there before.
“People didn’t think we could do it last year and we did,” Thomas said. “You’ve got to believe you can go out and be successful and that’s what we’re doing.”