Greenbrier High School girls varsity basketball coach Garrett Black was hot under the collar Saturday night at the Brierpatch.
Black had just watched the Lady Wolfpack score a paltry 10 points in the first half against Lakeside High School. His squad had committed 15 turnovers, and hit just 5 of 22 shots to fall behind the Lady Panthers 18-10 at halftime.
Greenbrier picked a bad time to go cold.
The loser of the contest was going to be relegated to the Region 3-AAAA basement, while the winner had a good chance of avoiding the bottom two seeds - and a play-in game - in the region tournament next month.
The Lady Pack has been relegated to the play-in game every season since the team's inaugural year. That's bad enough, but it's even worse than it sounds. The winner of the play-in game faces the region's No. 1 seed, and a near-certain defeat.
When Greenbrier retreated to the locker room at the half Saturday, Black didn't pushing the panic button. Instead, he pushed the hot button.
"Coach wrote 'Heaven' on one side of the board and 'Hell' on the other," Greenbrier senior Erica Johnson said. "The second half was going to determine who will go to Heaven or Hell. We didn't want to go to Hell, so we had to play real hard in the second half."
Greenbrier escaped from its halftime purgatory, and eventually outlasted Lakeside 54-49 in overtime. Lady Pack senior Lindsey Sutherland led the way with 14 points, Johnson chipped in 13 points, and Katie Sutherland added 11.
While the Heaven and Hell analogy won't qualify Coach Black for sainthood, his fire and brimstone speech did light a fire under his Greenbrier players.
"I think I got their attention at halftime," Black said - not that the Lady Pack needed any prodding from their coach.
"Lakeside has always been our rivalry. They kind of took it away from us at the Christmas Tournament, so we wanted to get 'em back on our home court and make it sting a little bit," Johnson said.
Both teams dished out punishment, combining to commit 45 fouls in the game. Greenbrier was 16 for 28 at the free-throw line, while Lakeside was 15 for 30.
The key contact, however, didn't even draw a ref's whistle - late in the first half, Lakeside senior Nichole Bennett was hustling for the ball and took a spill. She injured her shooting hand in the fall, and her touch was hampered the rest of the night.
Lakeside guards Toya Coard and Brittany Watts picked up the pace, though. Coard opened the third quarter by hitting a 3-pointer, and Watts added two buckets to put Greenbrier in a 25-14 hole.
From there, Greenbrier applied a press and turned the 11-point deficit into a 29-26 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
"Toya Coard was our primary focus tonight, and Kiley Moranski came off the bench and did a good job guarding Toya in the second half," Black said.
With 1:25 remaining, and with Greenbrier ahead 42-38, Black yelled to his players, "No mistakes!" A split second later, the Lady Pack gave the ball away on a backcourt violation.
Lakeside took advantage, as Bennett hit a 3-point shot, then later sank two free throws to send the game into overtime, where Cat Banks scored six points to lift Greenbrier to victory.
The Lady Pack's performances last week moved the team up in the Region 3-AAAA pecking order. After losing an overtime heartbreaker at home Tuesday against Josey, Greenbrier beat Butler 67-56 Friday night at the Brierpatch.
By ousting Lakeside, Greenbrier won back-to-back region games for the first time in school history.
"We're playing good basketball right now. The difference is senior leadership," Black said after the Lakeside game. "When I left the dressing room the seniors challenged the other players, and they responded. I didn't have to say anything at halftime."
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