Nettes lost in the final seconds 51-49. Great season for the PHS team comes to a close.
The Nettes celebrate an earlier win. Tonight they face a tough test on the road in Cairo, Ga.
There has been no bigger and more exciting week in Nettes basketball in recent history than this past week. After securing the first region title since the 1999-2000 season, the Nettes hosted the Stephenson Lady Jaguars in the first round of the state tournament on Tuesday, February 23rd. Stephenson only came in with a handful of wins, but eight of their 13 losses came against state ranked teams and they had plenty of talent. The Lady Jaguars were all business during warm-ups as the Jasper crowd began to filter in.
The opening quarter was fast-paced and Stephenson sprinted out to a 21-17 lead. The Nettes have been behind at times this season and remained focused as they managed an 18-12 second quarter, giving them a slim 35-33 lead at the half. The second half would prove to be an emotional roller coaster. The Lady Jaguars adjusted their defensive strategy and slowed the Nettes attack in the third quarter while knocking down shots of their own. Stephenson erased the Nettes’ slim lead and finished the third quarter ahead 52-44.
The start of the fourth quarter looked no better for the home team. With five minutes to go, the Lady Jaguars still sat on a 10-point lead at 58-48. They would only manage one more point over the final five minutes as the Nettes strung some good offensive and defensive plays together. Each time the lead was chipped away, the home crowd grew in volume and energy. With 2:35 left, Reagan Harwood finished a drive to cut the deficit to four. Amanda Nelson was fouled on a drive and sank both free throws, pulling the Nettes closer at 56-58. On the next possession, Cassidy Richards drained a three with 1:04 left to put the Nettes back in front 59-58. The Lady Jaguars attacked the basket and got fouled. They made one of two to tie the game at 59-59 with 52 seconds left. The Nettes worked the ball around patiently on their next possession before Stephenson fouled Cassidy with 22 seconds. She sank one of two to put the Nettes up and put pressure on the Jaguars to make a shot for the win. Their baseline jumper bounced out and the rebound was knocked out of bounds by Stephenson. The Nettes had 10 seconds left and a one point lead. Caroline Mullins received the inbounds and was quickly fouled. Mullins calmly sank both free throws to make the score 62-59 and Stephenson’s last second three bounced high off the rim as time expired. Pandemonium broke out as the Nettes celebrated the comeback win.
Head Coach Brandon Thomas knew they got away with one, but looked toward the next opponent in the Sweet 16, North Oconee. The Lady Titans had no such scare in their first round game as they traveled to Mt. Zion Jonesboro and hammered the Lady Cardinals 64-31. North Oconee brought a balanced and experienced team to Jasper for the Friday night match-up. This time, the Dragan Nation was early and the stands were rocking as starters were introduced. This game would be explosive from start to finish, with lead changes and up-tempo game play. The Nettes struck first, getting out to a 14-5 lead after the first quarter but the gap would be short lived. North Oconee increased their aggression and settled in for a long battle in front of the Dragon faithful. With a couple of minutes left in the half, the Lady Titans pulled even at 22-22. Kealy Hillhouse connected on a big three with 10 seconds left and the Nettes jogged to the locker room with a 27-24 lead.
Fortunately for North Oconee, their best quarter statistically all season is the third quarter. In the third, the Lady Titans averaged 17 points, a full eight points better than any other quarter. Unfortunately for the Nettes, the third quarter was statistically their least productive quarter.
However, this is the state playoffs. Throw stats out the window. The third quarter would prove to be a war and the Nettes held onto the lead at 40-39 despite the North Oconee pressure. The fourth quarter would come down to fouls and free throws. The relentless pressure by North Oconee eventually resulted in foul trouble and the Nettes’ student section gladly chanted as two Lady Titans walked to the bench after fouling out. Slowly but surely the Nettes increased their lead until the result was no longer in doubt with about a minute and half left.
As time expired the celebration began again as the Nettes advanced to the Elite 8 with a 61-51 win.
All 10 players that saw time in this game would score, led by an inspiring effort from Kealy Hillhouse who had 16. The cool thing about this Nettes group is they are balanced. Any player can contribute, or make a big play and many do.
The format for home court in the Elite 8 comes down to a GHSA coin flip and the Nettes found themselves on the losing end. They travelled to Cairo, GA on Monday, March 1st for a Tuesday, March 2nd game to face the 16-1 Lady Syrupmaidens. Cairo has only tasted defeat once this season. Led by nine seniors and region player of the year Ambria Vicks, the team from Cairo will be a tough test for the Nettes.
The Nettes greatly appreciate the outpouring of support from the community during this journey as cards, gifts, and well wishes come pouring in. Should the Nettes find a way to get past Cairo, they would have a chance to host a final four match-up in Jasper at the end of the week.