By KEVIN HARRIS
NEW WASHINGTON —
The New Washington girls’ basketball team might not have played to its full potential on Tuesday night at Matthews Gymnasium.
But the Mustangs can say one positive thing about their season right now — they are all alone in first place in the Southern Athletic Conference standings.
New Washington held off a fourth-quarter charge by Borden to win a critical conference matchup, 49-46. The Mustangs (5-1) improved to 2-0 in the SAC, while the defending conference champion Braves (2-2) are now 1-1 in league play.
“It’s been awhile since we have been in the driver’s seat,” New Washington coach Terry White said. “That’s one of our goals. Anytime you can control your own destiny, it’s important.”
It appeared that the Mustangs were going to cruise to victory in the middle two quarters. Trailing 11-9 at the end of the first period, New Washington proceeded to outscore Borden 28-13 in the second and third quarters combined to go up 37-24.
In the second quarter alone, the Braves scored only two points as they missed six of their seven field-goal attempts. Borden coach Terry Rademacher thought the third quarter was the crucial stanza in the contest. In the third, New Washington knocked down eight of its 11 shots and all three of its 3-point tries to take a 13-point lead.
“The game kind of got away from us in the third,” Rademacher said. “They hit four perimeter shots in a row and it got away from us. You have to make shots in the second quarter and we didn’t.”
The Mustangs seemed to still be in control of the game with two minutes left in regulation. Junior forward Caroline Ricks converted a three-point play to put New Washington up 44-34.
But Borden sophomore Kristen Nestor got a friendly roll on a 3-pointer to cut the Mustang lead to 44-37. New Washington junior Ashley Johnson made both ends of a one-and-one to get the advantage back to nine. But Borden’s Shelby Kirchgessner drove the length of the floor with a layup and then made a steal and a layup to slice the Braves’ deficit to 46-41 with 58.1 seconds remaining.
After Mustang junior Courtney Amick misfired on the front end of a one-and-one, Kirchgessner converted another layup to pull Borden to within three at 46-43.
With 31.3 seconds left, Johnson knocked down both ends of a one-and-one to put New Washington back up five. But Nestor swished a 3 in the right corner off an inbounds pass with 22 ticks left to get the Braves back to within two at 48-46.
With five seconds remaining, Kirchgessner tried to make an off-balance shot in the lane, but could not drop it in the bucket. Two seconds later, Johnson got fouled and made the tail end of a two-shot situation to go up by three. Kirchgessner tried a half-court shot at the end, but it fell short.
Rademacher lauded Kirchgessner’s play down the stretch in helping the Braves make their rally.
“She’s been playing well all year,” Rademacher said. “She pushes the ball when it needs to be pushed. She pulls up when she needs to pull up. She hit some big shots in the fourth.”
Despite pulling out the victory, White was not thrilled with the way his players’ performance in the final minutes.
“That’s where we didn’t play smart,” White said. “We let them have a couple drives to the basket that went uncontested. We didn’t have good court awareness and I thought we lost some confidence. We talked in the postgame [speech] that we need to improve as individuals. [The Braves] are competitive - they competed.”
Johnson scored a game-high 21 points, shooting 7-of-15 from the field and 5-of-8 from the stripe. Johnson also had four assists and four steals. Teammate Kirston Sarver had 12 points and four assists, while Ricks scored 10. Amick had six rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Kirchgessner led Borden with 14 points along with four steals and three assists. Teammate Leslie Beatty had 10 points, a game-high nine rebounds and a game-high five steals.
New Washington will visit Rock Creek Academy on Thursday. The Braves will host Shoals on Saturday.
NEW WASHINGTON 49, BORDEN 46
Borden 9 10 18 12-49
New Washington 11 2 11 22-46
Borden (2-2, 1-1 SAC): Shelby Kirchgessner 7-17 0-1 14, Leslie Beatty 4-10 2-6 10, Abby Ellis 4-10 0-0 9, Natalie Ruedinger 2-3 3-3 7, Kristen Nestor 2-8 0-0 6, Sarah Hurst 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 19-50 5-10 46.
New Washington (5-1, 2-0): Ashley Johnson 7-15 5-8 21, Kriston Sarver 5-14 1-2 12, Caroline Ricks 4-6 2-3 10, Coari Robertson 3-5 0-0 6, Lexie James 0-1 0-0 0, Kaitlyn Schindler 0-1 0-0 0, Brooke Abbott 0-1 0-0 0, Courtney Amick 0-7 0-1 0, Emilee Holloway 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-50 8-14 49.
3-point field goals: Borden 3-11 (Nestor 2-3, Ellis 1-3, Kirchgessner 0-5); New Washington 3-7 (Johnson 2-3, Sarver 1-2, Amick 0-2).
Rebounds: Borden 30 (Beatty 9); New Washington 36 (Amick 6).
Assists: Borden 5 (Kirchgessner 3); New Washington 12 (Johnson, Sarver, Amick 4).
Steals: Borden 14 (Beatty 5); New Washington 14 (Johnson 4).
Blocks: Borden 2 (Kirchgessner, Ruedinger 1); New Washington 0.
Turnovers: Borden 20, New Washington 22.
Total fouls: Borden 13, New Washington 11.
Fouled out: Ellis.