Some wins are special. Some are memorable.
Then there’s a game like the one the Arab JV girls played last week at Douglas.
The JV Lady Knights won on the road, 52-49, but the simple score doesn’t do the girls justice.
For starters, it was an overtime game. Then Arab played the final minute with just three players on the court. When it was over, six players and their coach celebrated like they’d won a county championship.
Yes, six players – and three of them are eighth graders.
“I was like, I don’t know, I was shook, probably,” freshman Karlie Westbrook said the next day.
When the final buzzer finally went off, “I was shocked,” said eighth grader Bennett Elrod.
“It took me a minute to get it through my head what all had happened.”
Understandable. It was Elrod’s 3-pointer as time expired in regulation that prompted the extra period, making the score 43-all.
“I wanted to celebrate Bennett’s shot, but as soon as she hit it, I realized were were going into overtime with just four players,” coach Carlie Henderson said.
The team has nine on the roster, but a recent injury and COVID-19 protocols left the JV Knights with just six entering the Nov. 13 game against Albertville. The Lady Knights won that one, 34-18.
So, the team had done this before when it took the court against Douglas last Tuesday. Henderson tried running the press early on but had to switch fairly quickly or the players would run out of gas.
That almost happened anyway after Lexie Mann, an eighth grader, fouled out midway through the third quarter. It got grimmer still when Maggie Chastain, also an eighth grader, fouled out with about 10 seconds left.
Douglas, with the ball and up 43-40, throws an inbound pass under Arab’s goal with 14.2 seconds left. Chastain gets her fifth foul but Douglas missed both free throws. Elrod got the rebound and went down the floor.
She passed to Kaely Hill – the team’s oldest player as a sophomore – then on a pass back to Elrod, she was tied up in a jump-ball situation.
The possession arrow was in Arab’s favor, and with 6.5 seconds on the clock, Douglas took a timeout.
Henderson drew up the final play during the break.
Westbrook threw the ball in to Lily Livingston – also an eighth grader – near half court, and Livingston
dribbled twice, stopping to fling the ball cross court to Elrod behind a perfectly executed screen by Hill.
Elrod catches the ball and in one motion, strips the net as time expired.
“I was so excited,” Elrod was say later. “I looked at our bench and everybody was celebrating.”
“They did exactly what we drew up during the timeout,” Henderson said.
While the JV coach was excited, she wasn’t sure how her players would perform in overtime. Fortunately, varsity head coach Jessica Thompson was on the bench.
“When she was coaching at Grissom, they ended a game with three players,” Henderson said. “When we lost (Chastain), I turned to Jessica, and she said, ‘you gotta go to a box (defense),’”
As Henderson pointed out later, Arab fortunately jumped out to a lead in overtime. Had the team, they’d have been forced to foul and by the end there were precious few fouls to give.
Livingston made a 3 put Arab up 46-43 with 3:29 left in OT. Livingston got fouled and made one of two free throws to make it 47-43 with 3:04 left. Hill got fouled with 1:24 left. She missed the first shot but Douglas had a lane violation, and she got to shoot again.
She made one of to make it 48-43 with 1:20, then Elrod made one of two to to make it 49-43 with 1:01 to play.
Livingston got called for the foul with 48.6 sec left in OT, forcing her out of the game.
Then there were three.
“That’s when we went to the triangle,” Henderson said.
Douglas missed both free throw attempts. Then Hill hit a free throw and later hit a pair of free throws to make it 52-43 with 1.6 seconds left.
Douglas scrambled to make it 52-49 with under one second to play, but Arab’s lead was just big a hill to climb.
Elrod finished with 16 points, followed by Hill and Chastain with 12 each and Livingston with nine. Westbrook had three.
The JV girls went at it again on Thursday, this time with seven players (Marissa Pope was back from quarantine). They trailed Guntersville by four at halftime and five at the end of the third quarter.
But the battle-tested Lady Knights roared back late and won rather easily, 26-21. The Lady Wildcats didn’t score in the fourth quarter.
“It’s like we love to start playing in the fourth quarter,” Henderson said, laughing. “It’s like we finally get warmed up by then.”
Chastain scored 12, Mann had eight, Elrod five and Westbrook added one.
The JV girls did not play Friday night.