“Trust the process” is what Douglass Astros head coach Alana Allen told her players when she began coaching at Douglass and senior point guard Nekiyah Thompson remembered that as Doug defeated the Early County Bobcats 57-51 Thursday evening at the Macon Centreplex.
This the schools first state title and much of the credit goes to senior captain Thompson who finished with 23 points. The Astros maintained their lead as they headed in to halftime up 28-25.
As the third quarter began, Doug enforced their will on the Bobcats as they opened with a 8-2 run started by Thompson.
Early County hung around but it was the Astros who were in control, earning their largest lead of the game at 38-27. Bobcat fans were in shock and frustrated at their teams lack of scoring.
Meanwhile, Doug fans were excited as the third quarter ended with the Astros leading 41-36.
Eight minutes remained until the Astros claimed their first state title but the Bobcats were not going to have any early celebrations. With 3:01 remaining in regulation, the Bobcats trailed 50-45 and started to gain momentum.
Bobcats sophomore center Makayla Timpson began to attack the basket as she did all game. After a foul by Astros center Ikenya King, Timpson made both of her free throws to decrease the Astros lead to three. On the ensuing Astros possession, Timpson fouled Sesberry with her fifth foul, ending her night with 20 points and 14 rebounds. Sesberry missed the one and one free throw, giving the Bobcats a huge chance to cash in on the Astros lead.
Bobcats guard Jordan Eafford succeeded with that, as she made a jumper to cut the Astros lead to one. A Bobcats foul put King at the free throw line again where she made one of her two free throws, puting the Astros lead at two. This time, Bobcats forward Ta’Ziyah Jones answered with a layup, tying the game at 51.
The Astros needed to answer as the Bobcats were coming strong. Somebody needed to step up or their titles hopes would be crushed. Thompson rose to the occasion, going full court and converting a fast break layup to put the Astros back in the lead. A defensive stop by Douglass High put them back in control as Thompson converted on another layup to go up 55-51.
Another defensive stop by the Astros, put Thompson back at the free throw line where she made one of her two free throws. This was all the Astros needed as Sesberry converted one of her two free throws in closing seconds, to help the Astros claim their first state title.
“I feel like I’m dreaming,” said Allen. “It doesn’t feel real, that it’s over, that we [are] actually on top. I said from the beginning that we are going to be state champions and the fact that it actually happened is surreal.”
“It’s a lot of emotions. I am happy [and] excited,” said senior Astros forward Kayla Pruitt. “I’m, sad because I’m a senior and it’s over but I’m glad we got to make history for Douglass and I got to be apart of it. It just feels so good.”
Pruitt finished with 12 points and eight rebounds. Sophomore guard Ashuntee Weems added 10 points and three steals to finish third in Astros scoring behind Pruitt.
Assistant coaches Khaalidah Miller and Morgan Jennings were overwhelmed with emotions following the victory as well.
“Being able to go back to Douglass, where we played has been major. I remember talking to coach Allen and I said to her, “Coach Allen, I got all of these different offers to coach at these different schools but I wouldn’t make sense for me to go somewhere and give what I can give to another school when I did not go back to where I’m from.” I just had to go back and show these girls what they are capable of and what they can do,” said Miller.
“I felt that they responded to me very well”, said Jennings. Me and [Khaalidah] played here and the farthest we went was the Final Four. The girls had the talent and we knew they could get it done.”