ALPHARETTA — In 18 years on the bench, South Forsyth girls basketball coach Keith Gravitt has never had a freshman quite like Sarah Myers.
But after watching what the talented shooting guard has done for the Lady War Eagles throughout the season, Gravitt doesn’t hesitate to give her every opportunity possible when the game is on the line.
Myers rewarded her coach with a game-high 21 points on Saturday, including her team’s final eight, and led the No. 4 seed Lady War Eagles to a hard-fought, 49-47 victory over No. 6 seed Lambert in the Region 6-AAAAAA consolation final at Alpharetta High School. The Lady War Eagles earned the region’s No. 3 seed for state tournament.
"We [asked] the girls to get the ball to Sarah’s side of the floor," Gravitt said about the final minutes of the fourth quarter. "We didn’t know it would be her every time getting to the line or making a shot, but we thought if we could start it there and make [Lambert] adjust ... it would create a better opportunity for us offensively.
" ... To the level that Sarah has been able to contribute to our success this year, I’m not sure that I’ve seen a freshman do that before."
Myers was out-shined by her sister, senior Rachel Myers (15 points), for three quarters before she took over and scored all but two of South points in the final period.
The score was never separated by more than six points, as Lambert (10-18) held an early 13-7 lead only to watch South (20-8) take a 39-33 advantage into the fourth quarter.
Lambert rallied behind eight fourth quarter points from senior forward Peyton Card (15 points), who scored seven in a row for the Lady Longhorns and put them back on top 42-41 midway through the period.
"Peyton did a great job tonight; I think she had almost 20 rebounds," Lambert head coach Seth Thompson said. "We’d click for a second and we’d have some spurts [where we didn’t].
"I’m real proud of our girls but [Sarah Myers] is tough and Coach Gravitt is doing a great job with them over there."
Sarah Myers answered with two baskets for South before Lambert pulled ahead one last time on a pair of free throws by Morgan Jackson (13 points) with 1:59 remaining.
The Lady Longhorns remained ahead until Myers hit two free throws to put South back in front 48-47 with 44.6 seconds to play.
Lambert possessed the ball three times after that but was unable to come away with any points.
The Lady Longhorns’ best opportunity came when Brittany Schwind rebounded a missed 3-pointer by Ellie Hammer and attempted a put-back that looked like it might go down. Instead, the ball rolled around and off the rim and into the hands of Myers, who was fouled with 7.9 seconds remaining.
Myers hit one of her two free throw attempts, giving Lambert a chance to tie or win the game with 6.1 seconds remaining.
The Lady War Eagles called a timeout to get their defensive plan in order and eventually forced Hammer into a long 3-pointer that fell short at the buzzer.
"We were talking about, ‘lets keep them in front, don’t foul, just be smart and make sure we get the rebound,’" Gravitt said of the timeout. "Mainly we were talking about keeping our composure at the end of a close game against a county rival, [especially] when you’re playing for [playoff seeding].
"We took care of the basketball when they pressed right there at the end ... and the girls did a good job defensively on them the last 30 seconds or so of the ballgame."
The victory put an exclamation point on what has been a remarkable turnaround for the Lady War Eagles this season.
South lost 14 of its final 15 games last season and finished 6-20 overall.
The Lady War Eagles essentially reversed that mark this season, and their victory over Lambert only added to the single season program win record that they set near the end of the regular season.
Sarah Myers, who was named to the all-region team at the conclusion of the Region 6 championship game, has played no small role in the Lady War Eagles’ rise this season.
"The girls really took me in [this year] and we’ve kind of built a family out of it," Myers said. "My older sister really helped, [especially with her] being a senior. We set goals in the beginning of the year and [tried to make] sure we accomplished them, and I think we did."