It’s been said revenge is a dish best served cold.
Beaten thoroughly a few weeks ago by rival Conway, the Carolina Forest girls felt the stars were aligned for them to gain a measure of retribution Monday night with the Tigers paying a visit to “The Black Hole.”
Add the fact that the matchup served as a de facto Region VI-5A title game, and the environment was set potentially for a raucous celebration at night’s end.
That party would never happen, though, not at least for the Panthers.
Zakera Chadmon’s jumper with 2 seconds left proved to be a game-winner for Conway, lifting it to a 59-57 win over Carolina Forest. With the victory, the Tigers earned their first league title since 1983.
Carolina Forest had a chance to tie the game at the end of regulation, with Cheyenne Pyles-Moultrie getting a good look at the basket. It was not to be, though, rimming out and setting off a raucous celebration by those clad in green and gold.
“It feels good,” Chadmon said. “We executed great, all our hard work and stuff … it feels good to be No. 1. This is history … we just made history tonight.”
With the game back and forth throughout, the Conway senior would prove to be the difference. Quiet in the first half, Chadmon heated up in the final 16 minutes, scoring 17 points — knocking down three 3-pointers in the process.
It wasn’t just her play on the offensive end that put the Tigers in position to win, though. Down the stretch, Chadmon also was active on the other end of the floor, notching a pair of steals and a block.
With all things accounted for and the game clock under 15 seconds, Conway girls basketball coach Shamae Hemingway had no doubt whose hands she was putting the ball in.
“I let her take it, that’s it,” she said, “and she finished it.”
Feeding off the energy of its home crowd, Carolina Forest started fast. As has been the case much of the season, junior forward Alexis Tomlin was the chief catalyst, scoring nine points in the opening period.
I knew I had to take control and be the head for my teammates and let everything fall behind my game,” she said. “It gave me a lot of confidence to know (Conway girls basketball coach Shamae Hemingway) could trust me, and I just did what I had to do to win the game.
Conway senior Zakera Chadmon, whose game-winning bucket lifted the Tigers to the Region VI-5A title
A 6-0 run late in the quarter would boost the Panthers to a 23-18 lead after one. But as would become a common theme, Conway scrapped its way back into the fray, largely due to the effort of Lanaejha Evans and Neci Hemingway.
The duo combined for 18 points in the first half, allowing the Tigers to trim the Carolina Forest lead to one at the intermission, 33-32.
“Every time we felt like we are going to put them away, we came down and had a turnover that was unforced,” said Carolina Forest girls basketball coach Stacy Hughes. “We got to clean that up against good teams like (Conway).”
Throughout the second half, the teams traded big buckets one after the other. But when her team needed it, Conway’s veteran had the answer.
“I knew I had to take control and be the head for my teammates and let everything fall behind my game,” she said. “It gave me a lot of confidence to know (Coach Hemingway) could trust me, and I just did what I had to do to win the game.”
Chadmon wound up with a team-high 18 points. Three other Tigers joined her in double figures, Evans and Hemingway each scoring 14 points, while Christian Moore has 13 in a winning effort.
Carolina Forest’s Tomlin led all scorers with 25 points. She also had 11 rebounds, four blocks, four steals and four assists.
Also in double figures for the Panthers was Pyles-Moultrie and Ellen Nardella, finishing with 13 points apiece.
With a region title in the bag, the Tigers now look forward to the first round of the playoffs, to which it will play host.
“I feel good … I feel good. But more so for the girls,” said Coach Hemingway. “It’s been a rough year, (but) they stayed in it. We started off kind of slow, picked it up midseason. Lost those last two region games, but we finished strong.
“Sometimes, that’s what matters the most.”