That’s especially true when the team that has you by the throat is the same team that handed you the 36-point loss that ended your season a year ago. Most places — but not at White Plains.
A 23-point fourth quarter carried the White Plains girls to an improbable 78-68 comeback victory over Ashville on Saturday night and into the Class 3A Northeast Regional at Jacksonville State.
The Wildcats (21-8) will meet Plainview (19-8) on Thursday at 9 a.m. in Pete Mathews Coliseum. In 1996, when White Plains last appeared in the regional tournament, most of the current players weren’t alive and those who were were still in diapers.
Ashville opened an 11-0 lead in less than two minutes, hit the offensive boards hard and led 25-15 when the first quarter closed. The Wildcats got as close as 30-27 midway through the second quarter then Ashville made another attempt to put them away with a 11-2 outburst. A 3-point basket by Sophie Taylor and a buzzer-beater two from Amber Greenwood cut a 12-point deficit to 41-34 at halftime.
White Plains coach Michael Merriman was less concerned about the number of points the Bulldogs had scored in the first two quarters than how those points were being scored.
“The way that they were continuing to spread it out was getting offensive rebounds and put-backs so I knew if we corrected that we would have a little bit better shot at it,” Merriman said.
The halftime adjustments didn’t right the ship immediately. The Bulldogs got the first six points of the third quarter. With 2:12 remaining in the third, Ashville’s Anika Bothwell nabbed an offensive rebound and stuck it back for a 60-44 advantage, the largest cushion the visitors had all night.
Then it was finally White Plains’ turn to make a significant run. In the next two minutes, Taylor scored eight points on a trey, a pair of free throws and a layup after Shelby Wood made a steal. Taylor Snellgrove added a 3-pointer and Greenwood’s free throw made the deficit suddenly manageable at 62-55.
Two minutes into the final quarter, Nikki Moss got the last put-back bucket for the Bulldogs and Ashville led 66-63. Snellgrove made sure there wouldn’t be another Ashville run. The senior, who was scoreless in the first half, said her mother, Tina, who doubles as Merriman’s assistant, encouraged her to keep shooting until she found her usual rhythm. Snellgrove netted her third trey of the second half on the ensuing possession to force a 66-66 tie.
The game’s next points came on a trey by Sophie Taylor from deep in the left corner and White Plains never trailed again.
“When I let go of that ball I knew it was going in. I could just feel it,” Taylor said. “I didn’t even look at it because I knew it was going in.”
After connecting on just two 3-point shots in the first half, both by Taylor, the Wildcats got seven treys after the break. Taylor added four, finishing with a career-high six, and Snellgrove had three. Merriman said his team got better 3-point looks in the second half by going to its “moving parts” offense rather than having the shooters remain stationary.
“The first half, we were trying to take care of the ball and make sure that we were reading our passes and all that. The second half, we moved them a little bit more,” he said.
Shelby Wood did her part to keep Ashville’s offense in check late. Four of her game-best five steals came in the fourth quarter.
Taylor ended with 24 points and seven rebounds. Greenwood and Carley Wood each scored 17 points and Wood had seven boards. Snellgrove and Shelby Wood scored nine points apiece. Wood added 11 assists and five rebounds to her five steals and Snellgrove had four assists.
Bothwell led all scorers with 25 points, 14 in the first quarter. Hannah Ashley scored 14 points for Ashville, 10 in the third, and Moss had 12 points.