David W. Healy
St. Joseph Catholic School’s Ashanti Brown, the Planters Bank Player of the Week, was not going to let her team get discouraged after Greenville Christian School’s Williette Kingdom made a sensational play to send the game between the Fighting Irish and the Lady Saints into overtime Friday night.
St. Joseph had the game seemingly won when Kingdom stole the ball in the backcourt and then raced down the floor to make a layup just as time expired in regulation. Kingdom’s play caused the visiting fans inside of the St. Joseph gymnasium to erupt in glee. The GCS girls have had the Fighting Irish’s number in recent memory, and this looked to be yet another bitter pill to swallow.
But, thanks to Brown’s leadership, the Fighting Irish went back to the bench and regrouped. When the overtime began, the St. Joseph players came out inspired to win the extra period and the game, 85-77.
“We knew we could still win the game even when it went to overtime,” said Brown, who led all scorers in the game with 29 points. “We told each other. ‘We got this. We just have to finish it off.”
Brown scored nine of her team’s 16 points in the four minute overtime period. Her three-pointer with a 1:20 left in the extra stanza put St. Joseph up for good, 78-77.
St. Joseph Coach Suzzette Suggs called the victory Friday the best victory her team has had in her fourth season as the head coach.
“This game was important because we have to learn to protect our home court,” Coach Suggs said. “This is also a big confidence boost for us. We scored 80 points tonight, and we have not done that before.”
Now in her fourth season at the helm of the Fighting Irish, Coach Suggs and her players are starting to see all their hard work pay off. After Friday’s victory, St. Joe now has a 7-5 record, the best start to a season for them in more than a decade.
The game between the Saints and the Irish was a back-and-forth affair the entire night as players from both teams kept making one big play after another. On both sides of the floor, players came up big.
Tykira Rancifer and Cha’Koriea Holmes both scored 18 points for St. Joseph, and Rancifer’s putback with 20 seconds left in the game helped seal the victory.
St. Joseph’s Emma Kate Threat also played a key role in the St. Joseph victory. Threat made three three-point field in the game’s final six minutes.
“I am not surprised she did that,” Coach Suggs said. “Emma is our Steph Curry.”
Behind the solid play of players like Kingdom (22 points) and Tariyah Washington (26 points), the Lady Saints were able to build their lead to 10 points with 4:25 left in the third quarter, but a bucket by Holmes in the closing moments of the third quarter cut the GCS lead to four points to set up the exciting final stanzas.
“I am relieved,” Coach Suggs said. “We finally got over the hump.”