The results show it. After all, with a 42-41 victory over White Plains on Tuesday night, Lively’s Wildcats and White Plains are tied for first place in Class 3A, Area 10.
“Even though our season has been up and down, we knew if we could get in this spot and beat them, and had to flip (a coin) for a host (of the Area 10 tournament), the momentum would be in our favor,” said Lively.
The outcome of the game was hindering on Saks’ ability to finish the game at the free throw line, something that haunted the Wildcats last time they faced White Plains.
“When we played at our place, we didn’t hit free throws,” Lively said. “In this game, that was something I challenged them on — making your free throws.”
With a 51 seconds left, White Plains’ Taylor Snellgrove hits a 3-pointer to tie the game, but on Saks’ next offensive possession, the Wildcats answered with a quick layup. On the other end, White Plains’ Carley Wood knocked down both free throws to tie the game 41-41.
As the clock read 9.4 seconds left, Aliyah Simmons was fouled while going up for a layup. She was able to knock down one of two foul shots to push Saks ahead by one. White Plains immediately called a timeout to go over their crunch-time play. However Saks stole the pass and drew a foul with 1.3 seconds left. Although the Wildcats missed both free throws, Daja Johnson came down with the rebound for Saks to clinch the win.
“I feel like we battle a lot throughout the season, and we’ve grown up a lot,” Lively said. “With this team being so young, we haven’t learned how to win, and I feel like we started to tonight.”
Saks will look to keep its hopes of hosting its area tournament alive, as the Wildcats travel to Piedmont on Thursday, and Lively knows the formula is simple.
“If we beat both Piedmont and Weaver, and Piedmont beats White Plains, then we’ll host the area tournament, simple as that.”
Saks boys 53, White Plains 39: In what was a defensive battle through three quarters, it was final quarter that provided Saks with the edge it needed to earn the victory.
Heading into the fourth quarter, Saks and White Plains were tied 34-34, and then something clicked for the Wildcats.
Saks opened the quarter on an 8-0 run, and didn’t allow White Plains to add to its total until 4:16 remained in the quarter when Jerod Guthrig knocked down a 3-pointer. Saks outscored White Plains 19-5 in the conclusive quarter, and held the Wildcats to 11 points in the second half.
“I think our pressure caught up to them a little bit,” Saks head coach Jonathan Miller said. “I thought we played better defensively the second half.”
Darien Coleman led all scorers with 17 points, but it was Roc Green’s double-double — 13 points and 13 rebounds — that helped Saks the most. Monty Young added eight points and six rebounds.
“His rebounds were a lot of effort plays to get us extra possessions, and that is big,” Miller said. “We aren’t a great offensive team right now, so anytime you can get extra possessions, especially with offense rebounds, it’s huge.”
White Plains’ Nathan Gilbert was the high man for the Wildcats as he finished with 15 points and eight rebounds. Guthrig chipped in with 10 points.
“We’ve had a rough year, up-and-down a little bit, with all our injuries, so we are just trying to get better,” Miller said.