For a brief moment, Jillian Bretz felt like she had squandered her team’s golden chance.
As a whole, the sophomore’s performance against Roswell wasn’t her best: Two quick fouls in the first half forced her to sit out most of the second quarter, and as the fourth quarter was ticking down to its end, the miscues hadn’t quite ceased for her.
But her last mistake came at exactly the wrong time. With the game tied with just 4.4 seconds left in regulation, Central had the ball with a chance for the game-winning bucket after a travel call on the Hornets. Tese Ajorgbor inbounded the ball to Bretz, who dribbled to the sideline, and when she was pressured by a Roswell defender, she accidentally stepped out of bounds. Turnover.
“I was really mad at myself because I should have looked up and passed it,” Bretz said. “But I believed that our team could get a stop and we could get it into overtime.”
And her teammates rewarded that confidence, preventing the Hornets from banking the game-winning shot to send the game into the extra period. Once the Bulldogs were there, Bretz did her part to redeem herself, hitting a pair of free throws and a layup to put Central ahead. After Ajorgbor added some insurance, there was some poetic justice: Again on the sideline, Bretz took an inbound pass, this time keeping her balance on one leg with a defender in her face before passing to a teammate for an eventual score.
“You don't think about the past, you think about what's going on,” Bretz said. “Coach (Paul) Cromie always says it's a new quarter, it's a new game. It's a new half, it's a new game.”
And when the actual game was over, Central had defeated Roswell 46-42, improving the Bulldogs’ overall record to 6-1 overall, despite an overall performance that was far from perfect.
“Just like I said to them, I think that we didn't play our best, but because we played our heart out, our heart and our effort made up for our mistakes,” Central girls coach Angela Hurt said. “Missed free throws, missed opportunities to score, missed box-outs, those things. In the end, us fighting is what let us win the game.”
For most of the first half, the Bulldogs trailed the Hornets, and while they were successful inside, they couldn’t quite find an outside shot.
Bretz, Christina Ajorbor and Elizabeth Pruitt were able to sink threes in the first half, though, and at halftime, Central was still very much in it, trailing 21-17.
After showing flashes of potential in the first half, Bretz really began to take over in the second. She connected on all eight of her free-throw attempts in in the last two quarters, finishing with a team-leading 18 points. She hit a three with seven minutes left in the fourth to tie the game at 32-32, and two of her free throws gave Central a two-point lead before the Hornets tied the game again.
"Overall, Jillian has become more aggressive as a player," Hurt said. "She feels and acts like a leader on the floor — she's not as timid and she plays more loose. She's not hiding ... Tonight, when she got back on the floor, she made a difference.
"I think what we'll take away from it is when we're not at our best and we continued to play hard, we can beat a lot of people. That's what our hope is, that we continue with that fight and that heart."