After battling with Auburn High throughout Friday’s matchup, the Opelika girls were in prime position to take the victory late and just needed to take advantage with the game on the line.
With only seconds remaining, Opelika’s Kaitlyn Bryant, LaDajah Huguley and Cherdi Daniels made it happen.
Bryant caught an in-bound pass with 18.3 seconds to go in a tied game then waited patiently until Huguley cut from outside the 3-point arc in toward the goal. Bryant hit Huguley with the pass, and just as the Auburn defense converged to slow down the senior guard she passed to her right, where Daniels stood all alone.
Daniels' shot hit the mark with 3.6 seconds remaining on the clock, and after Auburn’s desperation heave fell short the celebration was on as the Lady Bulldogs reviled in their dramatic 61-59 victory.
Daniels’ game-winning basket closed the book on a back-and-forth contest that only became more contentious in the fourth quarter’s final minutes.
Auburn (13-2) held a 53-52 lead with 3:22 to go in the game when Bryant swiftly stole the ball and raced down the court for an easy layup to push the Lady Bulldogs up one. Opelika (8-3) pulled down a defensive rebound on the next possession before Huguley was fouled, which resulted in two successful free throws to create a three-point lead with 2:56 remaining in the game.
Although the Lady Tigers were down, they were far from out.
Syriah Daniels delivered a deep shot on the Lady Tigers’ next possession, and although it was initially ruled a two-pointer the officials reversed the call and deemed it a 3-pointer to tie the game with a little under two minutes to go. The score remained knotted up until Huguley got the ball once again and came through with a layup to take a 58-56 lead with 1:31 to go in the game.
Opelika padded the lead when Ashanti Thomas connected on the first of two foul shots, creating a three-point lead with 1:14 to go. Auburn’s Olivia Porter responded with no hesitation moments later by drilling a 3-pointer to tie the game 59-59 with 43 seconds still showing on the clock.
Porter’s late 3 left the ball in Opelika’s hands, which led to Bryant patiently milking the clock before Lady Bulldogs coach Devin Booth called timeout to draw up the final play. The decision worked to perfection, leading to a celebration on the Opelika side and some more momentum entering area tournament play.
Bryant led Opelika with 27 points, followed by Thomas' 19 and Huguley's 11. For Auburn, Porter led the way with 25 points while Kennady Fetner had 11 and Daniels had eight.