The South Pointe game ball Monday night clearly went to senior guard Timisty Nelson, who scored 32 points and led the Lady Stallions past Wade Hampton of Greenville, 51-49, in the opening round of the Class-AAA state playoffs.
But a junior varsity player who did not get into the line-up also had her prints on the playoff victory at South Pointe.
After Wade Hampton scored seven unanswered points to take a 36-26 lead, Lady Stallions coach Brett Childers called a time-out.
It was then when Childers listened to the advise of sophomore Valerie Gaffney, who was brought up for playoff depth.
"She said coach, let's call '11 box-in-one chases," Childers said, referring to a defensive strategy that has one defensive player in a diamond-in-one on the opposing team's ace. "That defense works a lot for us, especially when teams do not expect us to go to that in the second half."
Childers listened, and the defensive strategy changed momentum toward the Stallions.
It resulted in four turnovers and a missed shot in the next five Wade Hampton possessions, and allowed South Pointe to end the third quarter on a 10-4 run and pull within four, 40-36.
Nelson went to work. Not wanting her career to end, she demanded the ball down the stretch and delivered on nearly every Lady Stallions' possession.
"I just knew that if I drove the lane, I would at least get a chance to go to the line for free-throw opportunities,'' she said.
With the exception of a Keanna Tinnin's two free throws, Nelson accounted for all of the Lady Stallions' points down the stretch. She connected on 9-of-10 free throws in her 11-point fourth-quarter performance and sank 13-of-16 for the game.
Nelson - who pulled down six rebounds, dished three assists and had two steals - gave the Lady Stallions their first lead, 42-41, with two free throws at the 5:21 mark. Nelson connected on a jumper in the lane and sank two more from the line for a 49-46 South Pointe lead with 53.0 seconds remaining.
Wade Hampton, 15-10 overall, tied the score with Marilyn Malphrus nailing a 3-pointer with 32.0 seconds remaining. Following a time-out, South Pointe got the ball into the hands of Nelson once again, who was fouled after grabbing an offensive rebound with 16.6 on the clock. Nelson hit both ends of the 1-and-1, but the Lady Generals called time-out to map a strategy for the tie or win.
They worked the ball inside to center Alexis Dillard, but South Pointe guard Chelsea Thomas got both hands on the ball to force a jump ball with the arrow still pointing toward Wade Hampton with eight seconds left. Guard Rebecca Spry took the inbound pass, but her attempt was off the mark. South Pointe grabbed the rebound at the buzzer.
"I told our girls that the game would come down to who was able to make their free throws," Wade Hampton coach Dave Linderman said. "We made free throws, but they were able to get more attempts."
South Pointe, 18-6 overall, will take on the winner of Greer vs Belton-Honea Path on Thursday.
SOUTH POINTE 51, WADE HAMPTON 49
South Pointe - Timisty Nelson 32, Lindsay Bradley 5, London Minor 4, Keanna Tinnin 6, Ashley Jaggers 2, Chelsea Thomas 2.
Wade Hampton - Katie Tatum 12, Maddison Bailey 5, Rebecca Spry 6, Alexis Dillard 16, Noelle Margano 2, Marilyn Malphrus 8.
3-pointers -- South Pointe 3 (Nelson, Bradley, Minor), Wade Hampton 6 (Tatum 4, Bailey, Malphrus). Team fouls -- South Pointe 12, Wade Hampton 14.
Records: South Pointe 18-6; Wade Hampton 15-10.