With the game on the line Ami Edwards had to make two free throws.
Benjamin Russell needed both makes by Edwards with just a few ticks left on the clock to secure a win.
The freshman drilled them both, and sent Benjamin Russell (6-7) home victorious over Talladega 35-33.
“It was a really good game,” said head coach Latreisha Moon. “We just played really well last night. We played basketball. We have gotten better. Everybody on that team has gotten better.”
It was an all around effort by the Wildcats against the Tigers on Thursday, with big games from Bradazjah Pulliam, Edwards and sophomore Emiyah Hester.
Pulliam was tied for the team lead in scoring with seven points on the night. Her defense and rebounding skills have become an integral part of the Wildcats’ game and they were on full display Thursday.
“That girl was all over that court,” Moon said of Pulliam. “She rebounded so well last night. She was everywhere. That girl is playing real well.”
Edwards also had seven points, adding a bucket and the two foul shots late to give the Wildcats the win.
Hester, who has come out of nowhere in recent games, was the force behind Benjamin Russell’s late heroics. While she may have only added four points, it was how she did that was key.
In Benjamin Russell’s tournament run in Montgomery, Hester hit a three that tied the team’s game up with Jeff Davis that the Wildcats eventually won.
On Thursday, she did it again, hitting a fourth quarter three to tie the game, again helping her team to victory.
Her defense was also integral for the Wildcats down the stretch.
Hester forced a jump ball late, and though the home team didn’t recover, it showed her effort and tenacity that led to her real game changing play.
Hester collected a rebound on a Talladega miss with under a minute to go in the game, and practically slingshotted the ball down the court. Moon said she didn’t think Hester knew anyone was down there on the receiving end, but knew that Hester knew they had to get the ball down there anyway.
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Her pass found the arms of Edwards, who went up for a layup and was fouled. Edwards hit the layup, and both the free throws, and again Hester had changed a game in favor of her team.
“Emiyah Hester, that girl has really come to life,” Moon said. “She has been playing so well. That girl is serious about playing basketball. I did not know I needed her. This year, this girl has worked hard. That is all it is.”
Moon said with the emergence of Hester, the team needs to feed her shots way more often than in make or break moments in the fourth quarter.
“She is probably our best shooter, our best outside shooter,” Moon said. “We just don’t give her enough.”
Something about playing Talladega must bring something out of the young Hester, because Moon recalled that the last time the two teams met, it was Hester that played the hardest of all.
“When we were in Talladega, that girl played so hard,” Moon said. “She came off that bench and she was like ‘I am going to get it.’ And that is what she did.”
Moon also turned to her middle school rotation, something she discovered has been working for her squad since their time in Montgomery. The trio of Zada McDaniel, Zee Johnson and Amari Cunningham tallied 12 combined points for the Wildcats, while also playing for large stretches of the game.
“They played a lot last night,” Moon said. “They are just playing. They are just stepping up and playing.”
It was an all around effort from Benjamin Russell, as the whole team found a way to contribute and work and earn the Wildcats a win.
“Everyone I put on the floor had their moments,” Moon said.
Moon has been trying to get her team to simply just play basketball. something she says after every game. After the victory, Moon said her team is finally playing the game she knows they can play.
“I think we are just getting back to playing basketball,” Moon said. “We are getting back to the basics. We have to play from the time the clock starts, to the time the clock goes off. Last night was a true testament of us doing that.”
The Wildcats return to the hardwood on Tuesday, opening area play with Calera at home.