Lady Gators drop a heartbreaker to Mandeville
St. Amant's Thursday night home loss to Mandeville left the Gator faithful at the Gold Dome stunned. So was head coach Kristy Englade.
After the game, Englade paused in the middle of answering a question to shake her head and simply say, "I can't believe we just lost that game."
The Lady Gators controlled Mandeville for the entire first half and took a nine-point lead into halftime. They even jumped the lead up to 11 to begin the third quarter.
However, little by little, the Skippers chipped away at the lead. Late in the fourth quarter, Mandeville's defense came up with three straight steals, which they turned into a 7-0 run.
That rally gave them a lead, which they never relinquished. They pulled out a 49-47 victory.
St. Amant was missing a senior starter down the stretch. Forward Alyssa Romano took a nasty spill that resulted in her head hitting the hardwood. That bad bump forced her to miss the rest of the game.
"We got into foul trouble there. Armani Gray is our primary ball handler, and Alyssa is a big scorer for us. She got hurt. Deniya Thornton also ran into some foul trouble, so when you take those three out of the game, it takes away some of your momentum and confidence," Englade said. "We just couldn't get into a rhythm. A lot went our way at the beginning, but down the stretch, it didn't. It was small things--like not blocking out and getting extra possessions. It was a tough one to take."
To begin the second half, Thornton drove to the basket and scored to give St. Amant an 11-point advantage. Thornton scored 11 points in the third quarter alone.
Unfortunately for St. Amant, Mandeville shut everyone else down. That allowed them to battle back and trim the deficit to 38-33 heading into the fourth quarter.
Late in the period, the Skippers began feasting on Lady Gator turnovers.
They came up with a steal that they turned into a layup to cut the deficit to one. Then Megan Bubeck came up with another steal and was fouled. She made both free throws to give the Skippers a one-point lead.
She followed it up with another steal and layup to complete a 7-0 run for Mandeville and a three-point lead.
Later, leading by four, St. Amant's Bret Mayers drilled a 3-pointer, but by the time the Lady Gators fouled Mandeville, there was less than a second remaining in the game.
Mandeville hit their free throws, and the Lady Gators didn't have enough time for a final shot.
"We have to be able to take the kind of pressure that we faced tonight. The teams in our district are a whole heck of a lot more athletic than this type of team," Englade said. "The inexperience of our kids, that kind of excitement tonight kind of got to them. There were some times they anticipated our passes and turned it into points."
After a 14-3 start, St. Amant has now lost three of their last five games. Coach Englade would like them to pick it up as the district schedule approaches.
"McKinley is going to be tough, as usual. EA is always going to be physical, and Dutchtown is athletic," Englade said. "We have our work cut out for us, but I think we can compete. We're young, but close games like this and playing against a team like Ponchatoula on Monday night will get us more district ready.
"I knew coming in that with us being so young, we may lose some close games. Other than Ponchatoula and Albany, everything else has been within three or four points."