A’niyah James’ buzzer beater leads LaFayette girls past Valley

Published 11:38 pm Friday, January 27, 2023

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A score of 27-26 may not look like much happened, but the LaFayette varsity girls will say otherwise as A’niyah James hit a buzzer beater jumper to send the Lady Bulldogs to victory over 5A Valley.

Valley head coach Thaddeus Tucker was blown away by the moment.

“Right now, it’s surreal,” Tucker said.

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“I wanted a big game. I wanted a tight game. I didn’t want it that way, but I wanted a good one.”

The first quarter was a defensive battle as neither team was able to get an open shot.

After being tied 7-7 at the end of the first quarter, the Lady Rams picked up the pace and took a 17-11 lead at halftime.

The Lady Bulldogs closed the gap a little bit in the second quarter. LaFayette’s defense held the Lady Rams to five third quarter points to cut the Valley lead to 22-20 heading into the fourth quarter.

Both teams were exhausted in the final eight minutes, but the Lady Rams took the lead with 14 seconds left after Kenda Watson hit two free throws.

With six seconds, the Lady Bulldogs attempted a shot, but it missed and went off a Valley player.

With three seconds left, James took the inbound pass and hit a mid-range jumper to stun the Lady Rams.

Tucker is thrilled with the improvement he’s seen from his girls over the season.

“I’m so proud of them,” Tucker said.

“We’ve been through ups and downs. We’ve been through arguments, but we stuck together. We became a family. We kept fighting. We kept pushing. We wouldn’t let them quit on themselves. They’re good kids, and I love them.”

The buzzer beater injected energy straight into the packed LaFayette gym, and Tucker was thrilled with the showing of the community.

“Thanks to Coach [John T.] Woody for bringing the crowd out,” Tucker said.

“Every little bit of effort I can get, I’ll take it. This is how you want the game to look when you’re playing a rival. I’m happy.”

The Lady Bulldogs will now turn their attention to the area tournament, where they’ll try to take down their rival and the host, Lanett.

“We’re going to play,” Tucker said.

“They didn’t get down on themselves, and they kept fighting. I hope we take that mentality into the area tournament.”

Talia Lee was the leading scorer for the Lady Bulldogs with 12 points.

LaFayette will get some rest before the Lady Bulldogs travel to Montgomery on Tuesday to face Trinity Christian.

The Lady Rams will also try to get some rest as Valley returns home on Thursday to face Lanett in the rivalry rematch.