The South Gwinnett girls basketball team began the season with very little experience. Coach Jaime Fisher even dared use a term she hates to describe the team.
“I’ve always hated the term ‘rebuilding,’ but now I’ve living it,” Fisher said.
The Comets took a step in the right direction on Friday night by outlasting Central Gwinnet, 60-57 in overtime. The win improved South’s record to 8-6 overall and 4-2 in Region 8-AAAAAA heading into today’s contest with league-leading Parkview.
On Friday the Comets showed a lot of poise, as they erased a five-point deficit with less than a minute to play in regulation, tying things at 53-53 when senior Colette Onenda drained a 3-pointer with 11 seconds left. South then prevailed in overtime, despite making only 7 of 14 free throws in the extra period. Onenda is one of two seniors on a team that’s loaded with underclassmen trying to get back into the state playoffs.
South was led by sophomore Arielle Harvey, who had 16 points, 19 rebounds and eight blocked shots. Harvey showed great maturity by coming up with big rebounds and blocks, despite picking up her fourth personal foul with 3:40 left in the game and sitting on the bench for less than a minute before re-entering.
South also got 16 points from Onenda, who added nine rebounds. Jashawna Johnson scored 13 and Kierra Clayton had 12 points.
Central Gwinnett (9-5, 3-3) was led by Alexandra Frazier with 14 points. Lexus Travis, Brianna McGee and Carol Reynolds each scored 10 points, with Travis and Reynolds each grabbed 11 rebounds.
South Gwinnett raced out of the gate by scoring the first nine points and lead 19-7 after one quarter. But all the shots that the Comets were making in the first quarter stopped going in in the second period. And all the shots that Central was missing in the first period began to drop in the second quarter. The Knights went on a 14-3 run to take the lead, which they built to 29-25 at the half.
“I told our players, we were hitting everything and they couldn’t throw it in the ocean, but that could all flip around the other way, and it did,” Fisher said.
Each team appeared poised to take control. South led 46-39 in the fourth period, but Central came back to take a 53-48 lead with 51 seconds left. South pulled closer on a basket by Clayton and tied it on a 3-pointer by Oneda. Central missed its chance to win the game and South had a final desperation shot that bounced away.
South went ahead in overtime on free throws and took a three-point lead when Harvey made a pair of free throws. Central’s Travis missed a 3-pointer to tie the game and South cleared the rebound to take the win.
“We competed. That’s all I can ask,” Fisher said.
It was an emotional night for Fisher, whose brother Joseph Kruppa was in town for the holidays. A lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, Kruppa had to leave at the start of the fourth quarter in order to get to his 9:15 p.m. flight back to Virginia Beach. After breaking the huddle to start the fourth period, the coach took time to give her brother a good-bye hug.
“He wanted to stay and see the whole game,” Fisher said.
He missed a big finish. And a big win for his sister.