Laura Cottrell's frustration was evident, and though no one watching the day's first game of the Times Free Press Best of Preps basketball tournament at Chattanooga State could blame her, the Chattanooga Christian girls' coach decided to try a new approach.
And her team wiped out a 20-point deficit and won 58-50 in overtime over Arts & Sciences.
With the Lady Chargers trailing 34-14 with 3:34 remaining in the third period, a calmer Cottrell took a deep breath and started encouraging them. They responded with a massive 32-12 run to force an extra period, then dominated it.
"They feed a lot off me, and when I get negative they play defeated," Cottrell said. "I just prayed and asked God to give me wisdom and he did, so I changed my approach to them. Once we got a couple of layups off steals, we started clicking from there.
"It was fun to watch them play during that run. It lets us know we can overcome any situation."
Sophomores Hannah Henry and Joanna Smith scored 22 and 20 points and led the comeback. They combined for 34 points after halftime and keyed a swarming defense that forced 23 turnovers in the second half.
Forcing turnovers on eight consecutive CSAS possessions, CCS (6-6) outscored the Lady Patriots (4-5) 11-2 to end the third quarter.
Smith scored seven consecutive points to cut the margin to 40-39 with 5:07 to play, and Henry's layup gave CCS its first lead of the game 30 seconds later. Christianna Smith's putback for CSAS with 20 seconds to play sent the game into overtime, but CCS's Smith scored four points and Henry had six in the extra session.
"There was one point where we all just kind of kicked into gear and started playing as a team," said Henry, a three-sport star. "I was trying to play quicker because I felt that was the only way we could get back into it. I think this can be a big turning point for us."
Brooke Mitchell topped CSAS with 17 points. Teammate Smith had 13 rebounds and three blocks.
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...