The Carver Lady Tigers' basketball season ended at home Friday night with a 49-43 playoff loss to the Winder-Barrow Lady Bulldogs.
The Lady Tigers finished the year 24-5, advancing to the second round of Georgia High School Association postseason play for the first time in over a decade.
The Lady Tigers were battling uphill after a first quarter in which they scored just six points, allowing Winder-Barrow to open the game on an 8-0 run as the Lady Bulldogs seized momentum on Carver miscues and second chances on the offensive boards.
Carver finally scored off a Mariah Igus 3-pointer with 3:12 left in the first quarter.
"We just started off slow and flat," an emotional Carver coach Anson Hundley said after the game.
"In these kind of games, you can't do that. We dug too big of a hole to come out of."
The Lady Bulldogs also successfully maneuvered through the Lady Tigers' signature full court press in the opening quarter, passing the ball quickly up the floor to let their height advantage over Carver lead to points and second chance rebounds.
"We just gave our players space to work against (Carver's) pressure," said Winder-Barrow coach Brandon Thomas.
Carver slowed the Winder-Barrow momentum in the second quarter to head to the locker room down 25-16. In the third quarter, the home team came out on all cylinders, opening the second half on an 11-0 run as the press defense became successful in forcing Lady Bulldog turnovers.
"Their pressure was relentless," said Thomas. "In that third quarter, they came out and punched us in the nose."
"We just went back to playing the way we normally do," Hundley said.
Carver outscored Winder-Barrow 17-6 in the third quarter to take a 33-31 lead into the final stanza. Senior guard Alexis Burns scored 10 of her team-high 19 points in the third to seize momentum back for the Lady Tigers.
"She's the engine that makes the car go," said Hundley. "That's what we expected from her.
"I wish we got it a lot earlier; we'd probably be in good shape right now. She stepped up like a player of her caliber is supposed to do."
Carver expanded the lead to 39-33 early in the fourth quarter, which would prove to be their biggest lead of the game.
Through the disappointment, Hundley paused to take stock of a successful season for the Lady Tigers.
"We fought and really improved the outlook on Carver girls' basketball," Hundley said. "We're definitely taking a step in the right direction. We look to come back next year in the same situation and keep it rolling."
Friday at CarverWB 13 12 6 18--49
Carver 6 10 17 10--43
Olivia Nelson-Ododa 24, Chellia Watson 13, Perkins 6, Maddox 4, Mayweather 2.
Alexis Burns 19, Igus 9, Holloway 6, Milner 4, Reese 3, Givens 2.
Records: Winder-Barrow, 24-6; Carver, 24-5. Next: Winder-Barrow, vs. Mays in Class 5A quarterfinals, Thursday at 3 p.m.; Carver, end of season.