Greenbrier forward Luther Holmes (12) attempts to score against Hart County in the Wolfpack's 58-39 loss to the Bulldogs.
Photo by Jonathan Heeter
HARTWELL, Ga. - Non-region tournaments usually allow teams to play squads they wouldn't normally see, in a stress-free environment.
Coaches use the tournaments to try out different lineups or sets to see how they perform without having to worry about falling behind in the region race.
But don't tell Greenbrier coaches Garrett Black or Casey Dees that these games aren't important.
The Greenbrier girls and boys teams lost three of four games in Monday and Tuesday's Dairy Queen Classic in Hart County.
The Lady Wolfpack kicked off the tournament Monday afternoon by beating Stephens County 76-70 in triple overtime.
"It was one of the best games I've ever been apart of," Black said. "We haven't played a close game all season, so we have already gained something positive out of this tournament."
The Lady Pack trailed the Lady Indians by as many as 10 points in the first half. Greenbrier, however, erased a four-point halftime deficit 30 seconds into the second half and took a one-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
But the Lady Pack fell back behind Stephens County for most of the fourth quarter, trailing two points with 2:08 left to play when Greenbrier's Melissa Lewis got into an altercation with Stephens County's Genia Halbrook after a loose ball.
The referees ejected Lewis after the two tangled on the floor.
"When we were on the floor, she got up after the jump ball and kicked me in the throat," Lewis said. "I shoved her as an instinct."
Hart County's Rashundra Hill tries to block the shot of Greenbrier's Kristi Nichols.
Photo by Jonathan Heeter
Per the Georgia High School Association rules, Lewis was forced to sit out two games, which included Tuesday's game against Hart County and this upcoming Tuesday's game with undefeated Hephzibah.
"That is a tough loss," Black said. "She is so crucial to our offense, but others stepped up."
Junior Tiffany Blackburn made a 3-pointer from the corner with seven seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime tied at 49.
"It felt like I missed about 16 shots before that," said Blackburn, who missed her first six shots. "But coach tells us to keep shooting and eventually they will fall. That wasn't a spot I feel really comfortable from, but I had a great look and took the shot."
Halbrook replicated Blackburn's feat, connecting on the Indians' first 3-pointer of the game as time expired in the first overtime.
The teams were tied at 64 after the second overtime.
Greenbrier got a 3-pointer from Brooke Jackson to take the lead 30 seconds into the third overtime and Michelle Swiec played keep-away during the final minute-and-a-half to ensure the win.
"We all had to step up when Melissa left the game," said Swiec, who scored 18 of her career-high 38 after Lewis was ejected. "I think we all took our game to another level."
The Lady Pack struggled without Lewis on Tuesday against Hart County, losing to the Lady Bulldogs, 62-55.
"There is no doubt that Melissa makes the game a different ball game," Swiec said.
"We were fatigued from the game yesterday and didn't have our best inside player."
"They played a triple-overtime game, drove two hours and were without a great player," said Hart County coach Joey Rider. "That would be tough for any team to overcome."
The Greenbrier boys lost both games of the tournament, falling 55-46 to Stephens County and 58-39 to Hart County.
Dees was so disappointed by his team's loss to Stephens County that he made the team wear practice jerseys against Hart County.
"We haven't played with heart for a while," he said.
Senior Gavin Globensky said playing in the practice jerseys was motivation.
"Some of the guys were embarrassed and mad when we came out and the other team laughed at us," he said. "But it was the best thing for us. It definitely gave me a wake-up call."
The Wolfpack lost by more points to the Bulldogs on Tuesday, but Dees was pleased with the effort.
"They were the state runners-up last year," he said. "We played our hearts out. I wanted to see who would respond and they stepped up tonight. Hart County made eight threes in the third quarter. Even on our best night, you can't expect to beat a team that shoots like that."
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