Members of the Randleman girls’ basketball team gather with the hardware after defeating host Eastern Randolph in overtime. (PJ Ward-Brown/Randolph Record)
Rally from Eastern Randolph creates drama
RAMSEUR – Randleman’s recovery from a few late-game glitches made the Tigers’ championship that much more impressive Friday night in the girls’ basketball final of the Piedmont Athletic Conference Tournament.
One thing the Tigers weren’t lacking was that internal belief that they would find a way to successfully defend their title.
“Coach (Brandon) Varner told us ‘You’ve worked so hard for this,’ ” senior center Graycn Hall said. “We’re going to show how hard we’ve worked.”
That was just part of the conclusion as the drama unfolded in Randleman’s 57-55 overtime victory against host and second-seeded Eastern Randolph in front of an overflow crowd.
“They earned this,” Varner said of his players. “You play in a conference tournament championship game on their court. We had to earn it and that’s what we should want.”
The regular-season champion Tigers (24-1) didn’t make a field goal in the overtime period, but they drained more free throws and made key defensive stops to come away with the prize they were seeking.
“That’s all I wanted was this tournament,” senior guard Elizabeth York said. “It’s always a bigger win when you win an away game.”
York sank two free throws at the 12-second mark to put the Tigers ahead and added another foul shot in the final second.
Eastern Randolph (17-7) wiped out a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit and scored the first four points of overtime.
“One more basket,” Wildcats coach Jeff Davis said of what was needed, noting that Randleman “is a great defending team.”
Randleman needed the defense because the Tigers had a late stretch spanning the fourth quarter and overtime when they committed four consecutive turnovers, shot an air ball, had a shot blocked and were guilty of another turnover.
Eastern Randolph’s rally consisted of Mackenzie Gee’s 3-pointer, two Brecken Snotherly free throws and Snotherly’s tying fastbreak basket.
Hall countered with a basket on a low-post move before Whitaker hit a runner. York scored on a backdoor play with 41 seconds to go, but another turnover with a chance to seal the outcome nearly doomed the Tigers.
Snotherly was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 6.1 seconds remaining. She missed the first attempt, then drained the next two. That extended the game.
“We dug deep,” Davis said. “We gave everything we had. This is the one that’s going to keep us up at night.”
Kenly Whitaker’s basket off a rebound and Snotherly’s bucket put Eastern Randolph up 53-49.
“We can’t give up,” Hall said. “We were so close. I was trying to keep (my teammates) believing that we’re not losing.”
Trouble brewed for the Wildcats as Logan Beaver and Kenly Whitaker fouled out in Eastern Randolph’s first overtime game of the season.
Randleman didn’t score in overtime until 1:22 was showing on the clock. In a 19-second span, Jordan Booker was good on four free throws to pull the Tigers even.
Hall’s foul shot gave Randleman a one-point edge before Snotherly connected on two free throws with 13.5 seconds to play. York did the rest of the scoring.
Snotherly, who was short on a would-be go-ahead shot in the final seconds of overtime, finished with 27 points despite double- and triple-team schemes to slow her down. She still found ways to create openings for herself and teammates.
“She freelanced a little bit,” Davis said.
Hall racked up 21 points and 21 rebounds, and York and Booker both scored 15 points. The Tigers shot 21-for-24 on free throws.
Beaver added 10 points and Whitaker had nine points for Eastern Randolph.
Randleman has gone two full seasons without a loss in PAC competition.