Tracy Kienast is pleased basketball games can’t be decided by a standing 8-count.
Once enjoying a 13-point lead, his Green Sea Floyds squad found itself on the wrong end of a 19-0 run, allowing Region VI-A foe East Clarendon to seize control of Saturday’s Class A girls final.
Under most circumstances, coaches tend to fret and players panic. Instead, the Trojans’ star player took over.
On the biggest stage of her career thus far, Green Sea Floyds point guard Tamara Jackson made the most of it, scoring 33 points to lead her team to a 71-68 overtime win over the rival Wolverines. By virtue of the win, the Trojans advance to their first state title game in school history.
“Third quarter, I was a little nervous there,” Kienast said. “But we knew they still had a run left in them, our girls talked about it. It was a little more of a run than I wanted, but we responded better than I expected.”
With the squad’s second-leading scorer in sophomore Jalinda Johnson on the bench due to foul trouble, the burden of carrying the team fell on Jackson’s broad shoulders. After failing to score a point in the third, the all-state performer scored 23 of her game-high 33 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.
“(Kienast) told us to be big,” she said. “We had two of our starters foul out. We just had to come together as a team to make this happen.”
Her contribution not only allowed her team to claw back into the contest, but also set up a thrilling finish that featured 13 lead changes and five ties.
The first 11 minutes after halftime, however, was solidly owned by East Clarendon. Led by seventh-grader Talaysia Cooper, the Wolverines dug out of a 30-17 hole — and seemingly took control of the contest.
“When we got a lead, the excitement was there,” said East Clarendon girls basketball coach Mike Lowder. “It is what we wanted. Came out in the second half, same thing we had done twice against (Green Sea Floyds). But I think the key was as we run, which is our game — push, push, push … full speed, full speed — it may have backfired a little on us (late in the game), even though it is what got us back in it.”
Also detrimental to the Wolverines’ effort was foul trouble. Three key starters — including Cooper, Valincia Garris and Caitlin Timmons — fouled out.
As the contest wore into overtime, those losses became more apparent, with East Clarendon turning the ball over on several trips down the floor.
More than happy to take it was Kienast and Green Sea Floyds, which took advantage of such opportunities and navigated itself to the winner’s circle.
“It’s awesome. I love this group … we’re blessed,” he said. “Not to say God blesses one team more than another, but he has blessed us with this opportunity to have a great season, and to show up and show out for Him.”
GSF: Laura Black 10, Tamara Jackson 33, Jalinda Johnson 14, Kyneisha Graham 4, Alelea McCall 3, Salena McCall 2, Zian Johnson 5.
EC: Talaysia Cooper 17, Caitlin Timmons 12, Gracen Watts 5, Kirby Smith 2, Ka’Terria Rose 14, Valencia Garris 15, Britni Anderson 3.
3-pointers: GSF 5 (Black 2, Johnson 2, A. McCall), EC 1 (Cooper). Team fouls: GSF 27, EC 20. Fouled out: Johnson (GSF), S. McCall (GSF), Cooper (EC), Timmons (EC), Garris (EC). Technical fouls: None. Records: GSF 17-6, EC 10-11.