Lady Panthers down Handley in double overtime to win 12th straight

Published 11:44 pm Tuesday, January 31, 2023

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The Lanett varsity girls celebrated senior night with a ceremony and a scrappy 55-53 win over Handley in double overtime on Tuesday.

Freshman point guard Nakeriona Heard had 20 points and was a huge reason the Lady Panthers stayed alive in double overtime.

Lanett head coach Charlie Williams knew Handley was going to be a challenge.

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“They’re physical,” Williams said.

“That team is going deep in the tournament. They’re solid. We had experience. It’s senior night. I had four seniors who have been through wars before. We needed those seniors to pull through tonight.”

The first quarter was one of sloppiest offensive performances of the season for the Lady Panthers.

The only scoring in the entire first four minutes was a Handley free throw, but a Laila Lancaster free throw with three minutes left in the quarter gave Lanett their first points.

After going down 3-1, the Lady Panthers started to find their rhythm in the last two minutes of the quarter.

MaKiah White hit a free throw to make it 3-2, and the Lady Panthers’ full court press created transition opportunities.

Four first quarter points from Samariah Davidson helped the Lady Panthers close the quarter on a 6-0 run and take an 8-3 lead heading into the second quarter.

Both teams dealt with foul issues in the second quarter, but Lancaster opened the quarter with a basket to extend the lead to seven.

The Lady Tigers pushed back after a few Lanett turnovers, and Handley’s Takeriauna Mosley hit both of her free throws with three minutes left in the quarter to give the Lady Tigers an 11-10 lead with four minutes left in the half.

Each team traded fouls in the final four minutes, but baskets from White and Nakeriona Heard helped the Lady Panthers take a 14-13 lead at halftime.

Heard and Davidson led the Lady Panthers in first half scoring with four points each.

Both offenses opened up in the third quarter as each team was trading baskets in the transition game.

Lanett fell into a 25-19 hole after Handley’s Kristiana Tucker hit a shot to give the Lady Tigers all the momentum.

The Lady Panthers retook the lead after senior Ariel Hall made a basket to give Lanett a 26-25 lead with 2:40 left in the quarter.

The Lady Tigers retook the lead, but both teams exchanged baskets as the third quarter was a back and forth battle.

Lanett took a 33-29 lead at the end of the quarter thanks to Heard drawing a foul and making the and-one.

The Lady Tigers took a 38-35 lead in the fourth quarter thanks to Takeriauna Mosley’s three, but the lead wouldn’t last long.

Lanett’s Laila Lancaster scored three points back to back, and Makiah White hit a basket to tie the game at 40 with just under two minutes left.

White hit a clutch jumper with 18 seconds left, but the Lady Tigers responded to tie the game at 42 and send it to overtime.

Overtime was a back and forth battle between both teams, but Lanett’s Jakiya Little hit a free throw with 21 seconds left to tie the game at 48 and send it to double overtime.

Heard was the hero of double overtime as she had all seven of Lanett’s double overtime points.

Lanett’s defense came through, and the Lady Tigers missed a basket at the buzzer to send the Lady Panthers home with a win.

Williams was thrilled with Heard.

“She grew up tonight,” Williams said.

“Our point guard, Ameria Ziegler, fouled out. Nakeriona stepped up and played some great defense at the end of the ball game.”

Williams knows games like these will only help his team in the postseason.

“It’s a tournament atmosphere,” Williams said.

“They’re going to go far in the tournament, and we’re going to have to beat teams like that if we want to go far in the tournament.”

Williams knows experience was the key factor to Lanett staying in the game.

“I love them to death,” Williams said.

“They’re the epitome of Lanett basketball. They’re hard nosed. They’re tough. They pick each other up. That’s what you need to have in these ball games. We run a lot. We condition a lot, and that pays off in games. They just fought. They were off their routine with the festivities. Once we saw a couple buckets go in, I knew we were going to be OK.”

The Lady Panthers will have to prepare for Valley on Thursday.

“We just have to do some light shoot arounds tomorrow and take some ice baths,” Williams said.

“We’ll be ready to play Thursday and Friday.”

The Lady Panthers have now won 12 straight and will host the area tournament next week.