Iota Lady Dogs survive scare

IOTA – Class 2A’s top-ranked Iota Lady Bulldogs have had a certain swagger to them all season long.

On Thursday, in a home regional playoff game against No. 16 Sterlington, that swagger looked more like a limp.

The Lady Dogs struggled for more than three quarters before finally pulling it all together in the final frame to avoid the Lady Panthers’ upset bid and slip away with a surprisingly difficult 58-50 victory.

The victory sends Iota into a home quarterfinal contest Monday at 6 p.m. against District 5-2A rival Ville Platte.

“It was an absolute nightmare out there tonight,” Iota coach Stan Baggett said afterward. “There’s no question they (Sterlington) outplayed us and outhustled us. We came in thinking it would be an easy game and we just weren’t focused and ready to play at all.

“I’m just glad we survived and, hopefully, tonight was a wake-up call for us.”

The Lady Dogs entered the frame down one (39-38) and quickly found themselves trailing by three (44-41) after a layup and free throw by Sterlington’s Simone Williams.

Instead of wilting under the pressure, the Lady Bulldogs responded.

Lady Dog senior Allison Baggett promptly answered with a long-range 3-pointer to tie the game and Iota reclaimed the lead seconds later on a layup by freshman McKenzie Armand.

“When they went up three I was a little worried,” said Baggett. “But Allison came down and hit a big shot and then McKenzie followed up with a bucket and I knew we were going to be okay.”

If Baggett’s mind wasn’t at ease after reclaiming the lead, it was shortly afterward thanks to Adalie Wriborg. With the Lady Dogs struggling from the outside, the senior guard drove the lane on back-to-back trips down the floor, hitting runners both times to push Iota’s lead to 51-44.

“That took some guts to drive in there and put up those two floaters,” said Baggett. “Those were two really big shots and they gave us some breathing room.”

Down the stretch, the game boiled down to free throw shooting, which Iota had struggled with for most of the night. The Lady Dogs, who made just nine of their 23 free throws, scored their final seven points from the charity stripe. Allison Baggett was 4-for-4 from the line in the final 30 seconds.

Dominiqua Thomas also played a key role in the fourth quarter despite not scoring a single point in the contest. The senior forward pulled down three rebounds on missed free throws that enabled the Lady Dogs to milk the clock even more.

“Dom came up big in the fourth quarter,” said Baggett. “We had made up our mind that the only way we were going to take shots was on free throws and layups. And we weren’t exactly setting the world on fire from the line so for her to come up with those rebounds was huge.”

The Lady Dogs hit just eight of 16 free throw attempts in the final eight minutes.

From the start, the Lady Panthers gave the Lady Dogs all they could handle.

Led by Williams, they led 13-12 early on and trailed 27-24 heading into the intermission.

Williams, who scored all 11 of her team’s fourth-quarter points, accounted for half of the Lady Panthers’ offensive output, finishing the game with 25 points.

“She is an extremely talented athlete,” said Baggett of Williams. “She is one of the better players we’ve see all year. She runs well, jumps well and finishes strong.”

Williams also led Sterlington’s defensive pressure that forced the Lady Dogs into a number of uncharacteristic turnovers.

“Sterlington is a very athletic team,” said Baggett. “But it was more self-inflicted on our part. Like I said before, we just weren’t ready to play tonight and we overlooked them.”

Despite shooting a dismal 33 percent from the floor (21-for-62) and making just nine of their 23 3-point attempts, Baggett was pleased with the way his team responded to adversity and closed the game out.

“I think we ended up going on a 12-4 run in the final two or three minutes,” said Baggett. “Teams that know how to win, that’s what they do. Somehow, we found a way to win.”

Allison Baggett led all scorers on the night with 26 points, including five 3-pointers. Wriborg followed with 11 points.

Anna Lege and Armand each had six points; Caroline Hebert had five; and Taylor Deville finished with four.

Thomas didn’t score but led the Lady Dogs defensively with 13 rebounds. She also had four assists.

And although Baggett was relived to advance to the quarterfinals, he is well aware that his squad will have to play much better if it wants to extend its season past Monday.

“We can’t play like we did tonight on Monday,” said Baggett. “If we play like this again, we’ll be bounced out real quick. We’ll be starting softball and track on Tuesday if we have another showing like this.”

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