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Lady Cougars hold off Lady Bucs, 39-33

Leading 35-33 with 102 seconds remaining in regulation Monday night, Brookhaven Academy coach Jason Case called a timeout to get his Lady Cougars set.

On the previous play, a ball was knocked out of bounds by a Bowling Green Lady Buccaneer and Case knew just wanted he wanted to do. When some coaches might be throwing the ball in and forcing their opposition to foul, Case called a base-line inbound play that saw senior forward Macy Grace Smith get a wide open three-pointer in the corner. Smith swished through the corner shot as Cougar fans finally were able to breathe easier on their way to a 39-33 win in the BA Thanksgiving Tournament.

Last season, the Lady Cougars took home the MAIS AA State Championship on their home floor with a 51-40 win over Marshall Academy. With only two seniors lost to graduation in Cameron Watson and Kaylin Jordan, expectations remain high this year.

What shouldn’t be forgotten, though, is how young the Lady Cougars (3-1) still are. Starting point guard Anne Brantley Warren is a freshman, as is forward Emily Clare Felder. Makayla Martin is a sophomore, while Smith and Jana Case are the seniors in the starting lineup for BA.

Case is going to lead the Lady Cougar offense in scoring on most every night. Against the Lady Buccaneers, she scored a game-high 17 points. Her coach — who is also her father — knows that developing other scoring options is something his team must grow as the season progresses.

“Teams are going to work hard to deny Jana the ball, and we’re going to have to learn to attack when that happens,” said Case. “Give Bowling Green credit, though, their defense made things tough for us.”

Bowling Green — coached by longtime MAIS fixture Barry Seal — used a full-court defense to harass the BA ball handlers. When the Lady Bucs weren’t jumping the ball in the back court they were extending their man-to-man defense out past the perimeter to disrupt the BA half-court offensive sets.

The first quarter featured a single field goal — a layup by Martin — and saw the Lady Cougars lead 4-2. BA is still trying to figure out who will play what role this season. Above all else, Case wants his team to make sure that effort is evident every time they hit the floor.

“When you put forth great effort, great things will happen,” said Case. “We’ve got to make sure that our effort is at the maximum every game we play.”

Warren plays beyond her years at the point and Martin is quick in the open court. Case is one of the best scorers in the MAIS. Madison Moak and Olivia Lewis are the first subs off the bench for a BA team that dresses out 10. Felder and Smith give the Lady Cougars athleticism and rebounding. Smith has nice touch from range, as evident by her game-sealing shot.
“That’s Macy’s shot,” said Smith. “She’s comfortable shooting that every time and we got her a good look.”

There were times when the Lady Cougars easily solved the BG press and got open layups, but more often than not Warren was surrounded by green-clad defenders.

Bowling Green twice led in the fourth quarter, but BA responded each time to regain the lead. The long arms of Case, Felder and Smith caused problems when Bowling Green tried to score in close.

Martin scored 12 points. Smith and Warren scored five points apiece. Warren grabbed seven rebounds, made five steals, and handed out four assists. Case snagged seven rebounds.

“We played Bowling Green later in the season last year and did a better job of handling their pressure,” said Case. “We’ve got to build our stamina up and have better legs than we had tonight. Playing the teams we’ll face over the next couple weeks are only going to make us better.”

Story by Cliff Furr