by Bella Millians
No matter the opponent or deficit, nothing scares the Sandy Creek Lady Patriots. They showed their steely resolve again, rallying late to secure a first round win against the Flowery Branch Falcons Friday night, 50-43.
Down to just six players dressed out and facing a four-point deficit heading to the fourth quarter, the Patriots again played with heart and hustle to advance.
“It’s just a will to win, a will to win and not give up on yourself,” said Sandy Creek coach Janie Hodges. “We knew Flowery Branch had a lot of different weapons. We knew they were going to be methodical and run their stuff, we just had to have a will to win and understand that all our shots weren’t going to fall, but we couldn’t let them out-hustle us.”
The first quarter was led by Sandy Creek with an even distribution of points from Jania Hodges, Arielle Belinga, Janae Walker, and Dajia Powell. Belinga continued to make her presence known by turning rebounds into points. Hodges’ 3-pointers, along with unselfish assists throughout the lineup, allowed the Patriots to end the first quarter with a four-point advantage over Flowery Branch, 12-8.
The second quarter started slow on both ends of the court. Flowery Branch reeled off a 6-0 run to lead, but Ajanae Chatham hit a jumper, and Belinga kept dominating in the paint, and Sandy Creek left the half with a 20-19 lead.
Flowery Branch got a jump on Sandy Creek to open the second half, pulling in front to take a 34-30 lead heading into the final quarter
The Patriots’ persistence through the fourth quarter was unmatched. Walker pushed them in front for good at 37-36 on a three-point play. Jania Hodges’s presence offensively and defensively played a major role in the Patriots’ success. She caused several turnovers and turned them into points scored, tallying a crucial eight points in the frame. Sandy Creek’s overall fourth quarter dominance ended with a 50-43 final.
Belinga led the Patriots with 17 points. Hodges followed with 14 points, Powell with 9, Walker with 6, and Chatham with 4.
The Patriots advance into round two where they host Dougherty Thursday, Feb. 20 at 6 p.m. The Trojans (19-10) are coming off a round one road win over Baldwin 60-59.