Turner’s late free throw helps Lady Falcons earn first region win
By Drake Horton,Contributing Writer
Editor’s Note: Senior Night photographs will be in the next issue of the News & Press
Three threes and a four, what does it mean?
For the Darlington Lady Falcons basketball team it means that the girls have lost three games by three points, one which was in overtime and another by four points during a season that has been filled with its up and downs.
That is not even including the eight point loss to Hartsville where it was tied at 46 with less than 1:30 left in the game before the Lady Red Foxes closed the game out.
But what does it all mean and how is all that heartbreak relevant to this story? Well, it is simple. This past Friday, the Lady Falcons finally got themselves over the proverbial “hump” and finished on the right side of a close game defeating the Lakewood Lady Gators 42-41 in epic fashion.
“I feel like this game finally clicked for them,” Darlington girls head coach Frances Fields said after the game. “We still made mistakes, but as a whole game I felt like they executed the game plan and that’s what you want as a coach.”
Going against her former team for the second time this year, a game in which the Lady Falcons lost by 15, Fields finally got what she has been trying to get out her team all season, a complete game.
“The confidence came and they executed,” Fields said on the Lady Falcons performance. “That is what I have been preaching and getting at them this whole time I’ve been coaching them so far.”
Tied at 35 going into the final period, Darlington battled and clawed its way to a 41-38 lead with just 39 seconds left in the game and all scenarios pointed to the Lady Falcons capturing that first region victory of the year.
Instead, the Lady Gators had different ideas. Coming out of a timeout with just 39 seconds left on the clock Lakewood tied the game with a layup and free throw, completing the three-point play and tying the game at 41 with 28 seconds to go.
With that shot the doubts seemed to start to creep back in, and on the ensuing possession Darlington turned the basketball over with just 19 seconds left on the clock and it looked like the Lady Falcons were about to endure another heart wrenching defeat when victory was so close.
That, however, was just not in the cards for Darlington. Lakewood missed the go-ahead layup and the Lady Falcons grabbed to rebound, pushing the ball up court to point guard Deja Turner. This is where it all came together.
Lakewood still had two fouls to give, so even if the Lady Gators fouled Darlington, the Lady Falcons where going to have to inbound the ball on the next two fouls before the bonus kicked in.
Following the missed layup by Lakewood and the Darlington rebound, the Lady Falcons pushed the ball up court and with two fouls to give the Lady Gators did what most teams would have done in that situation, they fouled Turner with only seconds left on the clock.
With five seconds left on the clock it is hard to set up a play and get a shot off and with one more foul still left to give before Darlington made it into the bonus this game looked destined for overtime.
Overtime, though, was not going to be an option on this night. It was senior night and while the Lady Falcons only had one senior they intended to send that senior, who happens to be Futrella McNeill, out with a bang and that is exactly what they did.
Inbounding the ball with just five seconds on the clock, the Lady Falcons found Turner, who as she was getting fouled pulled off a shot attempt therefore sending her to the free throw line because the foul was committed in the act of shooting with just two seconds on the clock.
Needing just one for the lead, Turner sank the first and missed the second, but Hope Richardson came down with her eighth and most important rebound, letting the final two seconds run off and giving Fields and the Lady Falcons its biggest win of the season so far.
“It’s all about being smart,” Turner, who finished with eight points and four steals, said. “When you have to pick your team up, you have to pick your team up. For me not being new to this it was kind of easy.”
While Turner’s moxie and recognition of the situation to attempt a shot while being fouled proved to be the difference in the game Richardson was the driving force in the game, leading the Lady Falcons in scoring with 16 points and rebounds with eight. But more importantly she gave Darlington a physical identity down in the post.
“It’s just to get the win, that’s it,” Richardson, explaining her motivation of her play against Lakewood, said.
Kenya Thomas finished with nine points and LaDaysha Bonaparte had seven.
The Lady Falcons are 4-10 overall, 1-5 in the region.
The Lady Falcons lost their other game of the week, back on Tuesday, January 26 in Manning against the Lady Monarchs by a score of 40-37.