Bri Williams’ potential game-winning 3-pointer fell well short of the basket at the buzzer, giving the Lady Indians a narrow 50-48 triumph Saturday against defending Class AAAAAA champion Norcross.
Taylor Gordon made both ends of a 1-and-1 situation at the free-throw line, putting the Lady Indians (4-0) ahead 49-48 with 34.6 seconds remaining in the game.
Williams drove the lane on Norcross’ ensuing possession, but Gordon came up big again with a steal, giving the ball back to McEachern.
After Te’a Cooper missed a free throw with 14.2 on the clock, Vash Perry recovered the rebound, but Caliya Robinson intercepted Williams’ pass in the lane and was fouled with 3.1 on the clock.
Robinson made the first of her two free throws, leading to Williams’ desperation heave at the buzzer.
“I just clear my mind at the free-throw line,” said Gordon, who finished with 13 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals. “I’ve shot maybe 1,000 free throws in my career, so it’s like I just put a mask on my mind. I just know I can make them.”
Gordon played a key role down the stretch and throughout the game. Her rebound of Perry’s missed free throw, as Norcross (3-1) led by one with 35.8 on the clock, led to Gordon making the go-ahead free throws.
Saturday’s game was the first for Gordon in more than a year. The senior forward wasn’t able to play for McEachern last season after transferring from North Cobb.
“It was so exciting to be back on the floor and in such an exciting game,” Gordon said. “Being a part of this atmosphere was great. I knew I had to play my game and play with heart because my girls needed me.”
McEachern took an early lead that grew to 10 points with 4:36 on the clock in the second following two free throws from Gordon.
Norcross slowly chipped into the lead. McEachern led 24-20 at halftime and 38-36 at the end of the third quarter.
There were 10 ties in the game — including eight in the second half — but only three lead changes.
The Lady Blue Devils took their first lead — 45-43 — with 4:50 remaining, following a putback from Sierra Butler, who scored seven of her 10 points in the fourth quarter. She also totaled seven rebounds.
Norcross dominated the rebounding edge 46-32, but likely lost the game at the free-throw line. The Lady Blue Devils were just 11-of-23 for the game and 1-for-5 in the final 2 minutes.
McEachern shot 9-for-11 from the line for the game.
“There are a lot of things we need to work on,” McEachern coach Phyllis Arthur said. “We’re just not together there yet as a team. We have to learn each other’s moves.”
Arthur was also critical of the rebounding effort.
“We need to box out,” she said. “We’re relying too much on our athleticism and not concentrating on the fundamentals. We showed we have some heart and faith in one another, but we need some work.”
Cooper totaled a team-high 14 points with seven rebounds, seven assists and three steals, while Robinson came off the bench to add 11 points, six boards and three steals. Aunesha Williams contributed six points, three rebounds and two steals.