It wasn't necessarily a pretty finish for the Carver High girls basketball team, but it was nonetheless effective.
With backs up against the wall, trailing by four going into the final quarter, the Lady Tigers maintained composure for a 47-45 win over visiting Henry County in the opening round of the Region 2-AAA tournament. With the win, Carver (11-12) clinched a berth in the state tournament and a date with top-seeded Southwest Macon in the region semifinals on Thursday.
"We held our composure," coach Anson Hundley said after the game. "That's been our thing all year: getting through the adversity and fighting back."
It took plenty of fighting back for the Lady Tigers, who fell behind early the second quarter and struggled to regain its momentum.
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After leading 12-9 after the first quarter, Carver watched Henry County slowly, but methodically, take control of the game. The Lady Hawks went ahead by as many as nine points late in the third quarter. The game appeared to be slipping away from Carver when Kendra Weeks and Dymon Brown hit back-to-back three-pointers to cut the deficit to 34-31 with just 50 seconds remaining in the third.
The Henry County lead was four, 36-32, entering the fourth, but again Brown stepped up. She scored on back-to-back possessions to tie the game at 36, and Taquanna Walton followed with a basket of her own to give the Lady Tigers their first lead since the second quarter, 38-36 with just over six minutes remaining in the game.
From there, the difference was free throws as Carver hit 9 of 12 down the stretch, while Henry County made just 4 of 13.
"Shooting free throws is an everyday thing for us," Hundley said. "You have to take baskets how you can get them, and I think we did a good job of that down the stretch tonight."
Brown scored 10 points in the final eight minutes, 50 seconds of the game, beginning with the three-pointer late in the third quarter. Overall, she led the team with 13 points in the game. Walton had 11, and Alexis Burns added 10.
Defensively, Carver came out of the gate strong in the final quarter, holding Henry County scoreless until it hit a free throw with one minute, 39 seconds remaining. Henry County got back within two points, 41-39, with just over a minute remaining, but they weren't able to climb back any closer.
"We really stress defense," Hundley said. "We like to try to score off the defense, we press and we play fast."
One thing Hundley said his team needed to do better if it wanted to have a shot against Southwest Macon was converting easy baskets. While the defense was good, he said, it was important that they make the easy shots when they get good looks.
"If we can do that, we'll keep it close," he said.
Henry County was led by Taylor Cistrunk (14 points) and Cameron Whitehorn (12 points).
Monday at Carver
Carver 12 6 14 15--47
Henry County 9 12 15 9--45
Brown 13, Walton 11, Burns 10, Weeks 9, Tanner 3, Norris 1.
Henry County (45)
Cistrunk 14, Whitehorn 12, Lewis 9, Johnson 4, Desouza 2, Boswell 2, Gillard 1, Joyner 1.
Records: Carver, 11-12. Next: Carver, Thursday vs. Southwest Macon; Henry County, season over.