ZACHARY – In a girl’s basketball game that frequently resembled a track meet, the Zachary Lady Broncos and Albany Lady Hornets were running neck and neck late in the first half of their game Monday night, but both teams appeared to be a bit winded.
Then suddenly with about three minutes remaining until halftime, the Lady Broncos found a powerful second wind and pulled ahead in the race for good as they broke open a close game on their way to a 74-57 win at the Zachary High Gym.
Junior guard Osha Cummings scored a career-high 35 points, including 13 in the pivotal second quarter. Mya McDaniels added 18 points on 9-for-15 shooting and the Lady Broncos (13-12) held Albany (15-10) to just 30 percent shooting from the floor in the second half.
Camryn Woods led Albany with 22 points.
With both teams pressing and trapping, which led to turnovers and plenty of fast break opportunities, the key 8-0 run for Zachary at the end of the first half almost never happened.
With the Lady Broncos up 33-32 with just under three minutes left until halftime, Zachary coach Tami McClure saw that her team was getting tired and almost changed her strategy.
“Actually, I was going to pull the press off and go back to our half-court defense,” said McClure. “By that point, both teams were wearing each other out. But I wanted to try to keep wearing them out more and we ended up getting four quick baskets”
All four baskets in the run were lay-ups or short shots around the rim created by turnovers and the spurt led to a 41-34 lead for the Lady Broncos at halftime.
But McClure knew the seven-point lead at halftime wasn’t safe in the fast-paced game.
“I asked the girls at halftime who was going to win this race, who was going to survive this race?” she said. “Because it was basically an up and down race in the first half.”
Albany was hanging tough in the second-half race, trailing by eight with 4:31 to go in the third quarter when Cummings single-handedly put the game away for the Lady Broncos.
Cummings hit a three-pointer, two free throws, and a lay-up to create her own 7-0 run to give Zachary a 15-point lead late in the third quarter. The Lady Hornets would not cut the deficit below 12 points the rest of the game.
McClure praised Cummings, who has a new job with this year’s team.
“Last year she was more of a role player. She never had to score like she has this year,” McClure said. “Finally, it clicked for her during one of the team camps this summer that ‘I have to be that scorer’ and she has taken on that role big time this year and tonight she took it to another level”
Cummings was more interested in praising her teammates.
“We played team ball," she said. “Everyone did their job. We were all ready. It was all hustle and focus”
Albany coach Stacy Darouse was disappointed in her team’s effort on the boards and overall defensive intensity.
“I thought rebounding was the key to the game,” said Darouse. “We didn’t box out well. If we want to win big games down the road, we have to do a better job of rebounding. We typically don’t give up 74 points. I thought our defensive effort was honestly pretty crappy. We can play better than we played. But credit to Zachary. They did a great job and played a great game. Twenty-three (Cummings) was awesome. We knew they were a good team coming in and we needed to play well to win and we just didn’t play well enough to win.”