By Derrick Mahone
With the game on the line, Dutchtown turned to its most experienced player for some leadership.
Lady Bulldogs senior Aisha Atwater didn't disappoint her teammates or the home crowd in their 66-53 win over Ola Monday night in a Region 3-AAAA contest.
Atwater, a part-time starter on last season's region championship team that advanced to the Class AAAA semifinals, scored 12 of the team's final 19 points including making 10 of 12 free throws in the fourth quarter.
She finished with a game-high 20 points as the Lady Bulldogs won their fourth straight game heading into the holiday break. Dutchtown will play Friday in the Chuck Miller Holiday Tournament at Henry County High.
"It is important that I step up this season," Atwater said. "It has been tough because my game has been off lately, but the coach and my teammates have been looking for me to be a leader."
Ola led for the majority of the game as Dutchtown struggled to get into an offensive rhythm. Atwater only had eight points through the first three quarters as the Lady Bulldogs trailed 43-37 going into the final period.
Dutchtown finally took the lead when Jasmin Reese hit a running jumper in the lane to give the Lady Bulldogs a 49-48 lead with 3:15 remaining. From that point, the Lady Mustangs sort of self-destructed under Dutchtown's pressure defense. In the last three minutes, Ola hit only one field goal and had five turnovers.
Lady Bulldogs' Deundria Clark finished with 17 points, including 10 in the final quarter.
It was Dutchtown's ability to protect the ball late in the game and clutch free throws that proved to be the difference. Dutchtown only had four fourth-quarter turnovers and connected on 14 of 18 free throws.
"We always talk about composure and poise going into every game," Dutchtown first-year coach April Tate said. "We try to give ourselves an opportunity to win. Sometimes you have to weather the storm that comes throughout the game."
Tate took over for Angela Williams this season after she resigned because of military obligations. Tate spent the last seven years at Savannah High.
She refuses to call this a rebuilding season although the team graduated its leading scorers, including two career 1,000-point scorers.
"I don't want to call it a rebuilding year, but we are under construction," Tate said. "It will take some time to adjust, but there are some talented girls on this team."
One area of improvement that Tate would like to see is the team get off to better starts.
"We have been more of a second half team this season," Atwater said. "We know we can't continue to do that and expect to win. We have got to play four quarters of basketball."
Despite the loss, Ola had three starters to score in double figures. Jordan Brown had a team-high 16 points while Laura Carter finished with 14 and Taylor Anderson added 10 points.
The Lady Mustangs dropped to 5-2 overall and 1-3 in the region.
Dutchtown boys 84, Ola 51
The Bulldogs have now won two of its last three games to improve to 2-7 overall and 2-1 in the region after dropping its first six games.
Dutchtown guard Joseph Shields had a game-high 22 points, including four 3-pointers as teammate Joseph Fogg finished with 13.