It started out with the Lady Villains running a 3-2 zone trying to prohibit any sort of penetration in the lane, and Bishop forced a couple of early steals. Alex Putman got the scoring started for Bishop with a pair of free throws and a three from the left wing, but Atkins got over their early jitters and started forcing its way into the lane. The Villains rebounded very well in the early going, but failed to finish on a few chances down low in the first quarter.
After a switch on defense confused the Lady Villains with the score at 7-5 in favor of Bishop, Danielle Nieters scored in transition to break a long scoring drought for both teams. Tierra Wilson then hit the first three of the game for Atkins to pull the Camels within one point in the final 30 seconds of the first quarter. The rebounding advantage was lost as Atkins played harder than the Villains down the stretch at the end of the quarter, and the period ended with Bishop leading 9-8.
Out of the break at the start of the second quarter, McKenzie Rochford took matters into her own hands and bottomed a three pointer from the top of the key, but a questionable foul on Danielle Nieters tempered the enthusiasm as it was her second of the game and sent her to the bench. After a strong defensive possession, Rochford scored again to increase the lead to four. That basket was followed by a jumper from Johnston that ballooned the lead to 16-10.
Things got a bit dicey after that when Julia Brown was called for her second foul of the night, and Cameron Nieters reentered the game with two fouls of her own followed by Kristina Gardner finding the bottom of the net from deep for Atkins. The three cut the lead back to two, but Cameron Nieters fooled the Camel defense and drove to the hoop for a bucket. After a double dribble was called on Bishop’s ensuing possession, Gardner hit her second straight three to cut the lead down to 18-17. Cameron Nieters found Tessa Johnston cutting to the basket on the next possession, but Gardner’s third three of the night tied the game at 20 in the final minute of the half, and that’s how both teams entered the locker room.
Bishop did not play a spectacular first half by any stretch, and they were in serious danger of being bounced from the playoffs if they played another sixteen minutes like they did in the first half. Coming out of the locker room the Villains had a players only huddle after a presumably unpleasant ten minutes in the locker room. But, Tyler Mercer gave the Camels their first lead of the night with a floater in the lane, but Bishop did what they didn’t do in the first half and got Julia Brown a touch down low. Brown drew a foul and then on the inbound Johnston hit a three for her ninth point and it reestablished the lead for Bishop.
Brown’s counterpart for the Camels, Armani Hampton, scored her first points on the ensuing possession, but then Julia scored her first two baskets of the game back to back to give Bishop a 27-24 advantage. Both teams then went into another scoring drought, before Cameron Nieters cut to the lane on a nice pass from her sister, converting a three point play in the process. Atkins never quit though and forced Julia Brown to commit her fourth foul with 1:30 to play in the third quarter trailing just 30-28. Brown took a seat, but Bishop extended the lead back to four on another bucket from Cameron Nieters on a nifty inbound play. Presumably holding the ball for the last shot, the Villains swung the ball around to Tia Cappuccio, silent all night, but she nailed a long three to establish a 35-28 lead as the third quarter ended.
Coming out at the start of the fourth quarter, Cameron Nieters was fouled on a drive to the basket, putting the Villains into the bonus with 7:35 to go in the game, and loosening the grip Atkins had on the game. Then Wilson knocked down the first open three of the second half, and then a wrong call by the officials gave Atkins the ball. Deayohanna Smith then banked in a three and the bad call resulted in a five point swing and brought the lead back down to 36-34. Nieters stemmed the tide a bit with a pair of free throws and Bishop hit the double bonus with 5:52 left to play in the game.
Julia Brown came back into the game with four fouls, but a Bishop turnover resulted in a runout for Tierra Wilson to cut the lead back to two points. Cameron Nieters kept willing her way to the free throw line though, and lead went back to 40-36. Then in a loose ball situation, Nieters was fouled again and made two shots from the line to extend the lead to six. Late in the game though, Sydnie Rogers converted on two straight baskets, the second of which an 'And 1' opportunity after Danielle Nieters fouled her, and she converted the three point play and gave the Camels the lead at 43-42 with 1:41 to play.
With eight straight state titles hanging in the balance, Cappuccio hit one of the biggest shots of the year, a pullup jumper from the right corner, to give Bishop the lead right back at 44-43 followed by an ugly Camels turnover to give it back to Bishop with a minute left. Tessa Johnston drove to the hoop but lost the ball in traffic, which led to a runout. Back the other way, Danielle Nieters blocked a shot from the hard driving Saryna Carpenter to keep the Villains in front and then was fouled on the ensuing possession. Nieters hit one of two, putting Bishop up 45-43. With 15 seconds left, Coach Lowery for Atkins called timeout to set up a final shot. In the final frenzy, Danielle Nieters forced an awkward shot from Carpenter, and a final heave at the buzzer fell well short for the Camels, and Bishop escaped with the 45-43 win.
Cameron Nieters led the way for the Lady Villains with 14 points as she willed her team to the victory. Tierra Wilson led all scorers with 16 points for Atkins, Tessa Johnston scored nine for Bishop, and Kristina Gardner’s nine first half points was good for second place for the Camels, as Bishop gets out with the win and advances to Greensboro to play Winston-Salem Prep next Friday night at 8:30pm. The broadcast will of course be heard right here on BMHSAthletics.com beginning at 8pm.