Natalie Jackson scored 17 points, including three of four free throws in the last 11 seconds, to help lead Wilson Hall's varsity girls basketball team to a 37-32 victory over Hammond Tuesday at the Nash Student Center.
The Lady Skyhawks' only lead came early, after a fast-break layup from Ahlea Myers to open the scoring. The Lady Barons scored the next seven points and never trailed the rest of the way, with Hammond managing one tie, 24-24, late in the third quarter.
"The girls played with a tremendous amount of heart tonight, and they played with a lot of effort," said Wilson Hall head coach Glen Rector, whose team improved to 4-1 while dropping Hammond to 0-3. "At the end of the third quarter we were getting a little bit tired. We gave up a couple of easy baskets and we were turning the ball over a little bit. I think the (end of the) quarter (break) gave us an opportunity to slow everything down, relax for a second and try to set the game plan for the fourth quarter."
A follow from Morgan Walker with 1:14 left in the third completed a 6-0 Hammond run that brought the Lady Skyhawks even, but the Lady Barons would maintain an advantage to close the quarter after Courtney Clark hit one of two shots at the free throw line. Jackson then took charge to open the final quarter, scoring Wilson Hall's first seven and adding a steal to push the lead back to six, 31-25.
Hammond pulled within one, 32-31, with a 6-1 run and had a chance to tie with 26 seconds left, but Myers, who scored 13 to top the Lady Skyhawks, came up short on a layup attempt after a steal. Jackson, who hit two 3-point baskets and finished seven of 12 at the line, hit two free throws ahead of another Myers miss and then added one of two shots with four seconds left to close out the scoring.
"We normally feel really good about our basketball team when we get in the stretch and we've got a little bit of a lead because we're good free-throw shooters (and) they're handling the ball pretty well," Rector said. "So Natalie coming in strong at the top of that fourth quarter was big for our basketball team."
Rector said Jackson, a military family transfer recently relocated to Sumter from Hawaii, is seeing her first substantial playing time after suffering an injury early in preseason practice.
"We knew she was a good player and second day of practice she turns her ankle and is out for about three weeks," Rector said. "So she is just now getting back into being able to play where she's comfortable. She's still learning to be comfortable with the girls and the girls are doing a nice job of accepting her, but she really stepped up big for us tonight. She hit a couple of really nice outside shots and then free throws down the stretch that were very important."
In boys play, Chandler Scott scored nine points to lead Wilson Hall in a 62-28 loss to Hammond.
"All I can say is we're going to figure this out and become a better basketball team," said Wilson Hall head coach Eddie Talley, whose team dropped to 1-4.
Both Wilson Hall varsity teams will be playing this weekend in the Baron Classic, with Thomas Sumter providing the opposition on Friday and Hilton Head Christian coming to town on Saturday.