The Fayette County Lady Tigers have a flair for the dramatics. After trailing 17 points entering halftime, the Tigers stormed all the way back to clip the Newnan Lady Cougars 64-61 in double overtime on Saturday.
Fayette improved to 3-0 on the season and earned a big victory over a Class AAAAAAA opponent. Sophomore guard Derique Donigan led the Tigers with 22 points and came alive in the second half. She sparked the Tigers’ offensive run with clutch defensive plays that transitioned into easy buckets.
Senior Sydney Sims chipped in 19 points and sophomore Ghylissa Knowles also added 19 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer in the second overtime. Aniya Carter led the Cougars (2-1) with 15 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.
“It was pretty good for us,” Tigers head coach John Strickland said. “We were down and we were home, where we play pretty well. So, we kind of got it going.”
Fayette fell into an early hole in the first half. Newnan decimated their defensive zone with hot shooting from distance. The Cougars made 8 threes in the initial 16 minutes and jumped out to a 34-17 advantage at halftime.
The freshman duo of Carter and Ashira Brown shot with confidence from the perimeter. They weren’t afraid to shoot over the top of the zone. As a result, they combined for 23 of the 34 first half points.
At halftime, Strickland was forced to change his defensive scheme. He decided to go towards a man to man defense. On offense, he wanted to more aggressive drives into the paint.
“I told them that if we could cut it to eight (points) by the end of the third, then we got a shot,” Strickland said. “We weren’t trying to get all 17. We just needed to cut it to eight and make a push there.”
Fayette responded with a hot third quarter. The Tigers outscored the Cougars 19-7 and got right back in the game. Donigan ignited the comeback with 8 points in the frame. She pressured the ball handlers and got a couple steals that wound up being back-to-back threes by Knowles.
With a minute left, the Tigers battled back within 10 points. At that moment, they knew they had a chance.
“I had to stay focused as we had to win this game,” Donigan said. “I had to play hard as it bounces off everyone else. We are all a team.”
In the fourth quarter, Newnan tried to put it away behind senior forward Noelle Butts. She attacked the interior and drew several fouls. This put the Cougars in the one-in-one at the free- throw line. However, the Cougars were 9-for-16 at the line and that left the door open for Fayette.
The Tigers took advantage. Sims carried the load with 9 fourth-quarter points. She put the team on her back as she consistently drove into the lane. With 1.6 seconds left, Sims got fouled on a last-second shot. She went to the line and knocked down two huge free throws to send the game to overtime at 54-54.
It was the Tigers first lead in the game.
“We had to go penetrate as we were missing shots,” Strickland said. “We had to make them move their feet.”
In the first overtime, Fayette and Newnan fought to a 5-5 stalemate. It warranted a second overtime where the Tigers got separation. After Carter missed three attempts from close range, the Tigers called a timeout to set up a game-winning play.
The play was run for Knowles on the wing. As Sims probed the defense, Knowles got open for a 24-footer that swooshed through the net. Fayette went up 62-59 and never looked back. They held on to pick up the win.
“I kind of felt it,” Knowles said. “I was listening to Sidney (Sims) and she said to take your time. I just relaxed, stayed calm and made the shot.”
Strickland was glad the shot went in. He had full confidence that Knowles would step up and knock down the dagger.
“The sophomores are relentless and they don’t know any better,” Strickland said. “They have free will to shoot it and they are in the gym all the time practicing. It goes down for them.”
The win could be a confidence booster for Fayette. After losing several seniors last season, they have reloaded with a different squad, but the same mentality.
“We are going to keep pushing and keep fighting,” Donigan said. “We are going to stay together and be humble always.”
Fayette returns to action against Carrollton on November 24. Newnan faces LaGrange on November 20.
The Tigers slide past Newnan 56-55
The Fayette County Tigers are still learning to close out games. On Saturday, they got another lesson on the subject as they battled the Newnan Cougars down to the wire.
With a second left, the game resided in the hands of senior guard Josh Dupree at the free-throw line. After being granted three free throws, Dupree was down to his final chance. He had already clanked his previous attempts. However, he wasn’t going to miss the last one.
Dupree confidently stepped to the line and sealed a 66-65 victory over the Cougars. The ball fell through the hoop as Fayette improved to 2-1 on the season. Dupree finished with 14 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists as Newnan fell to 0-2 overall.
“I was proud of how we were able to close it out,” Tigers head coach Andre Flynn said. “We didn’t panic with four seconds. Josh (Dupree) got a good shot as the guy fouled him and he made the free throw. We got fortunate.”
Things looked different in the early going. Fayette came out hot and jumped ahead 20-7 in the first quarter. Senior forward Greg Smith led the way early with 7 first-quarter points. He was also active on the defensive end with a couple steals. Teammate JeKobe Coleman found his rhythm with a big 3-pointer to extend the lead to double digits.
Smith had 12 points, 4 assists and 3 steals. Coleman added 11 points in the game.
However, Newnan wouldn’t go away quietly. Jatayveous Watson powered the Cougars back into the game. He started attacking the interior and got easy buckets around the rim. He posted 13 first-half points to get Newnan back on track.
Watson finished with 23 points. His production helped the Cougars narrow the deficit to 32-18 at halftime.
“The first half was exactly what we needed to be doing,” Flynn said. “We cut and moved the ball.
Newnan continued to make their run in the second half. Senior guard Harrison Drake found his footing after a scoreless 16 minutes and made three 3-pointers in the period. His last three brought the Cougars within four points at 44-40.
“Teams are going to make runs and we have to figure out how to close games out,” Flynn said.
With momentum flipped, the Tigers relied on their defense to carry them down the stretch. Junior forward Ike Morah corralled some tough rebounds to limit the Cougars chances. He also altered shots to keep them at bay.
Fayette found away to close it out in the fourth quarter. They held on thanks to the Dupree free throw. Despite being outscored 37 to 24 in the second half, Flynn was proud of how his team battled adversity to pull it out.
“I am pleased with all of my guys,” Flynn said. “We played excellent defense and we were able to come down that stretch right there. But we are a work in progress.”
The Tigers will get back to work over the holiday break. Flynn wants to work on improving everyone’s basketball IQ. Newnan will return to home to face Whitewater after the break.
“They put a little pressure on us and we have to learn how to be smart,” Flynn said. “Our basketball IQ has to catch up with our ability. I feel good about what we are doing, but our basketball IQ has to improve.”