Maggie Walker Governor’s School had never been to the Class 2 state tournament in school history, much less the semifinal, before this season.
But that’s where the Region A runner-up Green Dragons (19-6) found themselves Tuesday night at Southampton, pitted against familiar foe and Region A champion Greensville County (24-5).
In a back-and-forth affair neither side led by more than 6 points, Lenah Clements’ game-high 17 points and late fortitude were the difference as the Eagles used a 5-0 run in the final minute to end the Dragons’ season 38-37.
“I thought we could make something happen, but they made one more play than we did,’ Maggie Walker coach Speedy Baughman said. “It’s a tough way to end what was a magical season for us. We didn’t want to see it end, but hats off and good luck to them.”
Maggie Walker looked to have a trip to the state final within its grasp, up 37-33 with 48 seconds to play after Lisa Qin sank two clutch free throws.
But Clements, Greensville’s senior leader, had other ideas. She brought the ball upcourt, lowered her shoulder to clear space, stepped back behind the 3-point line on the right wing and rose up, drawing nothing but nylon.
“I felt like I owed it to my team, me being a senior and realizing we were down with a minute left, it hit me that this could be it,” Clements said. “I knew we needed a big shot, my team had confidence in me, my coach had confidence in me, and when it went it. … That’s what I dream of.”
The Greensville side of the stands went bonkers, but Maggie Walker still held a 1-point lead with 25 seconds to play. Then the Eagles swooped in to steal the inbounds pass and called a quick timeout.
Again, Clements took the initiative, driving the lane and drawing three defenders to her before dumping it off to teammate Kailyn Pleasants, who banked in the game-winner from the right box.
Breathless Eagles coach Sharon Manning searched for words to describe her senior leader’s grit in the final minute.
“It’s been unbelievable to see her growth, her leadership, and the way she’s playing ball is awesome to watch,” Manning said.
“[Clements is] phenomenal, she’s got a swagger about her, it’s cocky, but as a coach I love it because she’s a gamer,” Baughman said.
Emma Ragone and Ge’shanti Atkins led the Dragons with 13 and 12 points, respectively. Ragone stretched Greensville’s 2-3 zone all night, finishing with a game-high three 3-pointers, and gave the Eagles’ backcourt headaches at the top of Maggie Walker’s 2-3 zone.
“I knew it was important for me to see if my shot was on and when I hit one I just kept shooting,” Ragone said. “Because getting it down to the post was difficult, they have some big girls so the outside shot was important.”
Atkins found consistent success on baseline drives, which she said is her favorite space to operate in, and took a ton of punishment at the rim — she finished 6-for-12 from the free throw line.
“She’s just a gamer, she’s got the great mentality of she doesn’t get too high or too low,” said Baughman of Atkins. “If it’s a big game she always plays well.”
While the tears were flowing after Maggie Walker’s season ended, Atkins and Ragone implored their teammates and fans to keep perspective on the Dragons’ accomplishments.
“I just think everyone played well, no matter how we feel right now, everyone played great today,” Atkins said.
MAGGIE WALKER GS (19-6) — Emma Ragone 13, Annabel Tripodi 8, Lisa Qin 2, Ge’Shanti Atkins 12, Kaitlyn Campbell 2. Totals: 12 10-16 37.
GREENSVILLE (24-5) — Lenah Clements 17, Sanijah Robinson 7, Jacqueline Hill 3, Kailyn Pleasants 8, Jazlyn Jefferson 3. Totals: 15 5-13 38.
MWGS 7 9 11 10 — 37
Greensville 10 8 7 13 — 38
3-point goals: — MWGS: Ragone 3. GRE: Clements 2, Robinson.