By Zach Shugan
MILTON, Ga. — The Alpharetta girls basketball team picked up an always-important region win Friday night, as it won 48-40 on the road against crosstown rival Milton.
The Raiders (7-10, 2-3) fended off the feisty Eagles (1-14, 0-6), who led early in the fourth quarter and kept the game competitive down to the final minute.
“A region win is a region win. We’re always going to be proud of those when we can get them,” Alpharetta head coach Jordan Tetley said.
Milton led by one basket, 10-8, at the end of the first quarter. Following a back-and-forth second quarter, Alpharetta took a three-point lead, 18-15, into the locker room at halftime.
Sophomore Jayda Smith led the Raiders with nine points in the first half.
After being held scoreless in the first half, Alpharetta junior guard Jodi Goins hit a three on the opening possession of the second half to extend the Raiders’ lead.
Milton responded with a small run of its own, as seniors Kennedy Daniels and Sky Carrasquillo provided an offensive burst.
Daniels finished a layup with her left hand and connected from long range moments later. Carrasquillo grabbed multiple rebounds and drew multiple fouls, and she made a good percentage of her shots from the line.
Goins converted a floater in the final seconds of the third quarter, giving the Raiders a 30-27 lead entering the fourth.
Milton junior Hadyn Bendall put the moves on a defender and scored from mid-range on the opening possession of the fourth quarter. Following a stop on the other end of the court, Carrasquillo put the Eagles in front with one of her many successful drives on the night.
Alpharetta responded immediately, however, as senior Mary-Grace Durham hit back to back shots to put the Raiders back on top.
The game went down to the wire, keeping true to the way the first three quarters played out. With 59 seconds left, Milton cut the deficit to just a single point.
Smith and Kourtney Lacy sunk five free throws in the closing minute, and the defense didn’t let the Eagles score again, securing the win for the Raiders.
“Region games are tough,” Tetley said. “They always are, especially at an in-town rival like this. We came out very slow, but we fought through it and got the stops and rebounds we needed. But we can’t have starts like that anymore.”
Smith finished with a game-high 14 points, while Durham and Goins added 13 and 10, respectively.
Six different players scored for Milton, led by Carrasquillo (12 points) and Daniels (10 points).
The win gave Alpharetta a boost in the Reg. 5-7A standings as the regular season begins to end. The Raiders, currently fifth in the region standings, have five games remaining to secure a spot in the top four and make the state playoffs.
Usually, region standings from the regular season determine seeding for the region tournament. Then, the top four finishers from the region tournament earn berths in the state playoffs.
Due to the pandemic, the region tournament won’t be played this year. When the regular season ends, the top four teams in the region will earn direct berths to the state tournament.
“Every single region game is so important,” Tetley said. “It’s so much more important now than it ever could be. When we get a win, we’re darn proud of it.’
Alpharetta plays Etowah on Tuesday before back-to-back games later in the week against Roswell. The Raiders wrap up their regular season by hosting Woodstock and No. 4 Cherokee the following week.
Although Milton has yet to win a region game this season, the Lady Eagles are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Milton hosts No. 4 Cherokee on Tuesday, visits Woodstock on Friday and plays Roswell twice in the final week of the regular season.