FLORENCE, S.C. — Amaura Burgess had never focused on the backboard so hard in her entire life, she said.
“I was wide open,” she said. “It went in; I saw the clock tick down to zero and I was like, ‘Yeah!’ It was amazing.”
Burgess’ putback bucket off a missed shot in overtime ended a roller coaster of emotions for the West Florence Knights on Friday against rival South Florence.
West survived a 12-point comeback by the Bruins, forced overtime with a late bucket off a turnover, and then mounted a comeback of its own culminating in Burgess’ shot for a 55-54 victory.
The win keeps the Knights (7-9, 3-0) perfect atop the Region 6-5A standings.
“My girls showed mettle and they showed grit tonight,” WFHS coach Kevin Robinson said. “Our motto is heart, effort and intensity and that’s what they had tonight. Last year’s team would have put their heads down, but this year’s group was like, ‘No, we’re going to be better.’
“Couldn’t be prouder of them.”
It took a lot of resiliency in the waning minutes of both the fourth quarter and overtime period for West to pull things out. The Knights were outscored 12-6 and were down 45-43 with less than 30 seconds remaining when a Bruins turnover resulted in Shakaylah Cohen coming away with the ball and putting it in to tie the game.
Both teams missed chances to seal the win at the free throw line as they went a combined 0 for 4 down the stretch to force overtime. That changed as South sank three of its four shots from the charity stripe and led by four with under a minute to go.
But up stepped Cohen again. She made it to the line twice and sank all four attempts to pull the Knights even.
“Shakaylah Cohen is my point guard this year and she was forced to play the position when one of my top players got hurt,” Robinson said. “She wasn’t quite ready for it, but she stepped up. And she stepped up at the end for us. To hit those shots with no timeouts and really get us back in the game was huge.”
South’s Takayla Borden connected on the back end of two free shots to put the Bruins up one with time winding down, setting the stage for Burgess’ big moment.
“I was kind of already there, but I guess you could say right place, right time,” Burgess said. “As a team, it’s always going to be challenging; nothing in life comes easy. We found a way to gather ourselves and get the win.”
Burgess herself was a prime example of that, Robinson added.
“Amaura was down on herself early in the game; she was making mistakes,” he said. “But I told her not to hold her head down, because an opportunity was going to come again and she better be ready.
The game didn’t have the look of a close one early on as WFHS was in control from the get-go.
Zy’Breayziah Alexander scored the first three buckets of the game and added a three-pointer later in the opening quarter. Shakayla Williamson added six more points, including another trey, as the Knights built a 14-2 advantage and led by 11 entering the second stanza.
The lead was 12 when South made a strong push to climb back into the game. Sarah Holland hit a pair of threes, including one that started a 9-0 run by the Bruins. Albany Wilson had three straight buckets and finished with nine points in the frame as South pulled within 24-21.
But Williamson drained another shot from downtown, her third of the game, and the Knights took a 27-21 lead into the break.
Holland paced the Bruins’ attack in the third, scoring six more points with another trey. But Ciera McKnight and Kaniyah Williams each connected on a three-pointer as West took a 39-33 lead into the final stanza.
Williamson led the Knights with 16 points followed by Alexander with 13 and Cohen with 10.
Holland and Wilson each had 16 to pace the Bruins, with Lashanti Evans finishing with 12. Wilson also had 10 rebounds as did Borden.
WF 17 10 12 6 10 — 55
SF 6 15 12 12 9 — 54
WEST FLORENCE (55)
Shakayla Williamson 16, Zy’Breayziah Alexander 13, Shakaylah Cohen 10, Burgess 8, McKnight 3, Williams 3.
SOUTH FLORENCE (54)
Sarah Holland 16, Albany Wilson 16, Lashanti Evans 12, Lyde 7, Borden 3, Reaves 2.
RECORDS: WF 7-9, 3-0. SF 4-9, 1-2
NEXT GAMES: West Florence hosts Carolina Forest on Tuesday. South travels to St. James on Tuesday.