CLUTCH FACTOR: Lady Red Devils' Jahlea Peters seals win over Bunker Hill at home with clutch free throw, 52-51

Lady Red Devils' senior forward Jahlea Peters (30) looking to hoist a 3-pointer in the home win over Bunker Hill on Tuesday, December 10. (Photo by Marcus Smith)Lady Bears’ junior guard Addie Wray (30) gathers up against Newton-Conover freshman guard Cassidy Geddes (10) in the fourth quarter of action on Tuesday, December 10. (Photo by Marcus Smith)Lady Red Devils’ senior center Chyna Cornwell (54) attempts to position herself in the post against Bunker Hill’s Madison Stotts (34.) (Photo by Marcus Smith)
Marcus Smith
Sports Editor

Not everyone can handle the pressure on his or her shoulders to seal a win. In the case of Lady Red Devils' senior forward Jahlea Peters, she did just that on Tuesday night against Bunker Hill in front of her home crowd.

The varsity girls' basketball action at Newton-Conover High School turned out to be an instant classic as the Lady Bears (4-2) entered the hostile environment with everything to prove after losing to the Lady Red Devils in the season opener on November 20, 64-59.

In a match-up that went down to the wire, tied 51-all, Peters was fouled with three-tenths of a second remaining in the game to send her to the charity stripe. Calm and collected, she let that first shot go and in it went to much acclaim from the fans in attendance as they knew that was it.

“I was scared,” said Peters about having that pressure on her. “I knew I just had to step up, take my time. That's the only thing because free-throws wins games at the end of the day.”

With little time left on the clock, it was nearly impossible for the Lady Bears to get a shot off from full court. However, star junior guard Addie Wray slung up a prayer as she received the inbound pass in the backcourt to no avail, and that was all she wrote.

The ending was in favor of the Lady Red Devils (4-1), but up until the final moments, the second half was all Bunker Hill.

The Lady Bears trailed by double-digits at the half, 34-21, led by a strong outing from senior captains Chyna Cornwell and Peters, along with guard Cassidy Geddes.

Cornwell did what she does best as she collected 14 points, four rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal in the first half of play. Peters would also be on a tear with 11 points – including one three-pointer – one steal, two assists, as well as a couple of boards.

Through three quarters, Cornwell earned a few more boards to get nine (three offensive) while Peters obtained a few more points to amass 14 points.

“That's one kid that doesn't get enough attention,” said Lady Red Devils' head coach Sylvia White about Peters' strong play and clutch game-winning free-throw. “She's a team leader. She's one of our captains. Look how many layups she had (in the) first half, getting out running with the ball. Then, she stepped up there and knocked the one down she had to knock down. That's what seniors do and it couldn't happen to a better kid and hopefully it's going to keep giving us some confidence.”

Geddes – on varsity as a freshman – displayed her potential on Tuesday night. Through three quarters, she obtained seven points – including one trey – along with an assist for one of Peters' baskets. Geddes was also a hound as an on-ball defender in the contest with a pair of steals.

Through all of that, the Lady Bears were able to overcome the deficit as it regained a one-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, 38-37. After Lady Bears' head coach Lee Swanson changed his defense to establish full-court pressure in the third, the intensity was on another level, especially for senior forward Madison Stotts.

Stotts read the ball with precision and came up with steal after steal as she garnered eight steals on the night – four in the third quarter alone. Stotts' ability to clog the Lady Red Devils' passing lanes, as well the strong outing by Wray (as she put the team on her back offensively), led to this change in momentum.

Although she took a handful, Wray didn't settle for threes in the second-half as she drove it into the body of the defender with the veteran instinct to get to the charity stripe a number of times. Through three quarters, she converted 7-of-10 attempts. Going into the final frame, Wray had 14 points – including a three – three rebounds and a couple of steals.

“We felt like we come out where we needed to be (in the) first half and play good ball,” said White. “I'm not real sure, the second-half I'm going to give them (Bunker Hill) credit. They broke us down defensively. They come after us hard defensively on the other end and shut down and double-teamed our inside...We forced some shots and they took the pass away from us. Then, offensively, they took it to us. I give them the credit.

“First half, we got inside. We got outside. We want to mix it up. I mean, it's no secret that Chyna Cornwell's on our team. I think everybody would like to have to try to stop her, and we know she can score and a lot of things, but we can't be totally dependent on her. If you hit some outside shots, it opens up for them.”

With the victory on Tuesday night, the Lady Red Devils have swept the season series with Bunker Hill. Now, it must focus its attention on the Hickory Lady Red Tornadoes as it travels to Hickory High School on Friday night for game two of its season series with them.