Amira Atwater showed why she was the region player of the year during the late stages of Douglas County’s comeback win on Friday night.
She took control of the offense when the Tigers needed a jolt in its playoff win over Collins Hill.
The Tigers could have easily succumb to the pressure and folded in the late stages of its Class AAAAAA second-round playoff but Atwater refused to let them lose.
The Tigers led big early only to let Collins Hill take the lead for the last two quarters. Seemly tired and out of its offensive rhythm, Douglas County looked as if its 14-game winning streak and season was over.
However, Atwater sparked the Tigers offense as it defeated the visiting Collins Hill 53-48 to advance to the quarterfinals next week.
After letting an early 13-point lead slip away, the Tigers regained its composure and strength to outscore Collins Hill 19-9 in the fourth quarter for the win.
“This team has a lot of character,” Douglas County coach Chet Forsh said. “We’ve been in that situation once or twice, not a lot this year, but where we got behind. I told the girls that I think the region championship game helped prepare us mentally for this. We fought back.”
In the fourth quarter, Atwater scored seven of her eight points and gave the Tigers their first lead since early in the third when she scored five consecutive points to put the team up 42-41 with 5:58 remaining.
But Collins Hill would not go away quietly as it answered with five straight point to reclaim the lead at 46-42.
However, the Tigers defense would only allowed Collins Hill to score just two points the rest of the game.
Douglas County (27-1) took the lead for good when all-region player Arsula Clark hit a jumper to give the Tigers a 47-46 lead with 1:48 remaining.
Collins Hill coach Brian Harmon took note of Atwater’s performance.
“They just wanted it,” Harmon said. “You look up in their banners, they’ve been right here — around the Sweet 16, the Elite Eight a few times — so you’ve got some hungry kids on (Douglas County). The point guard is a tough kid. She was having a tough game the whole time, but she closed the game. We had a couple kids get kind of tentative down the stretch. That last three minutes, we were up six and kind of just threw the ball away. When you look at it this team hasn’t been here.
Free throws became crucial as Douglas County made six of eight int he final 1:26 to secure the win.
“We got a little relaxed after taking that big lead,” Atwater said. “We figured after we got behind that we had to push the ball and not let up.”
Freshman Amari Robinson had 22 points and Clark had 10 points and 11 rebounds to help pace the Tigers.
“We just have to keep playing regardless the score,” Douglas County junior forward Ashanti Brown said. “We have to keep gunning it and play hard. We can’t let up.”
With the win, Douglas County will face Parkview on Thursday at West Georgia in a 6:30 p.m. game. Parkview, the Region 8-AAAAAA champion, defeated Harrison 47-43 to advance.
“I don’t know much about them but me never try to go away from what we do,” Forsh said. “We always try to play our game and make our opponents adjust to us.”