Through two quarters of play in Saturday’s Class 5A semifinals game, Harris County set itself up well to move on to a title showdown with Buford. Then came the third quarter, which went so sideways the Lady Tigers couldn’t recover.
After leading for the entire first half, the Lady Tigers lost control in the third and saw Flowery Branch break the game wide open in a 72-55 loss. The game flipped dramatically after the half when careless mistakes and poor execution defensively by Harris County let the Falcons put up 24 and put the game out of reach.
“We just didn’t come to play the third quarter. We laid down and got complacent,” Harris County coach Steffanie Ramsey said. “At the half, (our players) felt like there were one or two calls where they got fouled. We had to suck it up and play, and we didn’t.”
Harris County’s four-point lead to start the third quarter quickly evaporated and coincided with Flowery Branch’s Taniyah Worth coming on. After picking up three fouls and no points in the first half, the Alabama commit showed the Lady Tigers why they built their gameplan around her, as she scored 10 in the third alone.
Ramsey knew her players had to limit Worth, who finished the game with 18 points, six rebounds and four steals. The problem was they couldn’t do it when the game was up for grabs.
“We left her open too much,” Ramsey said. “The gameplan was to attack her, and we didn’t. She was able to stay in the game and do what she did.”
As the Flowery Branch shooters found a rhythm in the third, Harris County started struggling to do the little things correctly.
More than one Harris County possession was wasted on poorly-attempted passes, and the Lady Tigers sent up several up-for-grabs throws that Worth and her teammates gladly stole. On the other side, the Lady Tigers were unable to beat Flowery Branch down the court while on defense, leading to a handful of Falcons’ points that were nearly uncontested.
“We turned the ball over and didn’t get back (on defense), which we talked about all week,” Ramsey said. “We didn’t do our jobs.”
The Lady Tigers did their best to salvage the situation in the fourth quarter, but the game had been decided by the time the offense looked like its old self. Jessika Carter ended her final high school basketball game with 24 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks. Taziaha Fanning followed with 17 points and 8 rebounds.
Ramsey said her team settled after all the talk about this team’s semifinals run, the program’s first since 2000. The Lady Tigers accomplished quite a bit in a 28-win season, but the sting of only their second loss in 2017-2018 won’t be easily masked.
Were the Lady Tigers caught looking ahead after halftime, or did they simply run out of juice against a Flowery Branch team full of shooters? Regardless of the reason things went so wrong so fast, all the Lady Tigers can do now is find a way to move on.
“It was our chance to make history and get to the state championship game, and we didn’t take care of business,” Ramsey said. “Now, we just get back to work.”
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports