Lady Panthers fall to Cold Springs in AHSAA semifinal

Published 9:40 pm Monday, February 27, 2023

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BIRMINGHAM – After making three straight state semifinals, the Lanett varsity girls fell to Cold Springs 44-37 in the state semifinal on Monday in Birmingham.

Free throws and missed opportunities killed the Lady Panthers, and head coach Charlie Williams accepted the blame for the loss.

“It was a great season,” Williams said.

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“Just participating in the final four doesn’t cut it anymore. We have to get past that and contend for championships. These young ladies worked their butts off this year. No slight to them. This one is on me. I own it wholeheartedly.”

The first quarter opened with a layup from Cold Springs’ Malaya Taylor after a minute and a half of no scoring.

The Lady Panthers responded with a MaKiah White basket, but it took five minutes for Lanett to find any points.

Cold Springs’ Maci Brown responded with a three with two minutes left in the first.

Lanett immediately answered with a three from Nakeriona Heard to tie the game at five with a minute left in the quarter.

Neither team scored in the last minute, and the two teams went into the second quarter tied at five.

Both teams shot a combined 22% from the field in the first, but Cold Springs outrebounded the Lady Panthers 11-4.

Cold Springs opened the second quarter with a three from Ciara Calvert, but the Lady Panthers got a key White block which led to Heard drawing a foul on the other end.

Heard made both free throws, but the Lady Eagles still had an 8-7 led with five minutes left in the quarter.

Cold Springs’ shooting started to pick up as Ella Dickerson hit a three with under four minutes left to extend the Cold Springs’ lead to four.

After a Lanett turnover, Brown hit another three to give the Lady Eagles a 14-7 lead.

Samariah Davidson forced a steal, and Ameria Ziegler reopened the scoring for Lanett with a layup to cut the lead to five with two and a half minutes left.

The Lady Panthers got the defensive rebound and responded with an Ameria Ziegler basket.

Heard got a steal as well and scored a layup in transition to cut the Cold Springs lead to 14-13.

White hit a jumper and drew a foul to give Lanett a 15-14 lead with 30 seconds left.

Cold Springs’ Kenady Graves drew a foul and hit both free throws to retake the lead for the Lady Eagles.

Heard finished off her strong half by making a three with two seconds left in the half to give Lanett an 18-16 lead at halftime.

The Lady Panthers hit five of their last seven and three of their final three shots to take the lead.

Lanett also held the Lady Eagles to no baskets in the final three minutes and 16 seconds of the half.

Lanett’s shooting improved from 25% to 45% from the first to second quarters.

Cold Springs’ Brown opened the third quarter with her third three to retake the lead.

Laila Lancaster used her post presence to get a layup to give Lanett a 20-19 lead with six minutes left in the quarter.

Ariel Hall added a junper to extend the Lanett lead to three with just under five minutes left in the quarter.

Brown hit her fourth three of the game to tie it up at 22 with just over three minutes left in the third quarter.

Cold Springs’ Dickerson responded with a three to give the Lady Eagles a 25-22 lead with two minutes left in the quarter.

Ziegler came up with a huge steal and score to cut the Lady Eagle lead to one with one minute left.

Dickerson answered with another three to help Cold Springs take a four point lead with 30 seconds left in the third.

Heard drew a foul at the buzzer and hit one of her free throws to cut the Cold Springs lead to 28-25 heading into the final eight minutes.

Cold Springs’ Graves opened up the fourth with a three, but White responded with a layup to keep the Lady Eagles lead at four.

Brown answered with a short jumper to extend the lead to six, but White hit another layup to cut the lead back to four.

Calvert hit a layup to extend the lead after a timeout, and Ziegler committed an offensive foul on the other end.

Cold Springs’ passing was too much for Lanett, and Dickerson hit a layup to give the Lady Eagles a 37-29 lead with five and a half minutes left.

Lancaster had a huge block, and Heard drew a foul on the offensive end.

Heard hit one of her free throws to take a 37-30 lead with just under five minutes left.

Dickerson answered with yet another three to give the Lady Eagles a 10 point lead with four minutes left.

Lancaster used her size to draw a foul and made one of her free throws to cut the Cold Springs lead to nine.

The Lady Eagles held the ball for more than a minute before Heard had to commit a foul.

Ziegler got a steal with two minutes left and score to cut the lead to seven.

The Lady Eagles turned it over with a minute and a half left, but Hall fouled Brown on the next possession.

Brown hit both of her free throws, and Heard responded with a basket.

Heard had another big steal and score to cut the lead to five with 30 seconds left.

After a jump ball, Heard tried another jumper but took one step too many.

Lanett had to foul with 15 seconds, and Brown hit both of her free throws.

The Lady Panthers couldn’t score, and Lanett’s season came to an end.

For Williams, he think of his players as family.

“These are my daughters,” Williams said.

“I have a three-year-old son. He’s my only child, but these are my daughters right here. I have a group text with them. I tell them every day I love them. When your season ends, it’s tough. I’m grateful to be at a place with these kids.”

Lanett still accomplished 21 straight wins before the loss, and Williams is bringing back three leaders.

“I’m happy with the season we had,” Williams said.

“Two years ago, we were just happy to be here. This year, I thought we were ready to take the next step. I have to go back to the drawing board to help my team.”

Sophomore MaKiah White, like Williams, has dealt with a difficult loss this year, and she’s glad to have her team as a support system.

“It’s been a tough year for me,” White said.

“This is my family. They’ve helped me through a lot. It was just fun. This year helped a lot, and we built bonds and memories.”

White, Lancaster and Heard will all be back next season to help the Lady Panthers reach the semifinals again, and Williams hopes this loss will light a fire in them.

“I hope the fire is already lit, and we can stoke it a bit,” Williams said.

“It’s good to have returning players, especially when you have youth. You can coach and develop how you want in the vision of your program. We’ve been piggybacking off each other. They’ve been great teammates to her. I love my team.”