A little motivation from the late Kobe Bryant helped spark the Rockmart girls’ basketball team early against Region 6-3A foe Ringgold on Friday night.
But it was the determination of a senior leader that helped the Lady Jackets secure a win on Senior Night at Rockmart High School.
In an impressive start, Rockmart hit 10 3-pointers in the first period against the Lady Tigers and fought off the visiting horde through the second half to get a 65-60 win, during which senior Megan Little recorded her 1,000th career point, but only after coming back in the game following an ear injury.
Rockmart girls’ coach Andre Clark said he talked about Mamba mentality with the team before the game, a reference to the fierceness and drive of NBA legend Bryant, who had died just more than a year ago in a helicopter crash.
“I told them I wanted them to come out with a Mamba mentality, to send the seniors out right. We came out on fire. I told them at halftime to keep their foot on the gas, but they took it off for a little bit,” Clark said.
The start, however, was a display that saw each one of the Lady Jackets’ field goals in the first quarter originate from behind the arc. They led 31-13 after the opening eight minutes of play and went into the locker room with a 46-26 lead.
But Ringgold made sure to not give up when they came back out and drove inside to get a swell of momentum that led them straight to a 19-4 third quarter and within five points of Rockmart’s lead.
“We came out and got some empty possessions because the kids hear some of the things from the stands and things like that, but we just needed to continue to do what we did in the first half. Swing the ball around, you get an open 3, and you shoot it,” Clark said.
Rockmart (14-6, 10-3 6-3A) took a hit early in the fourth when Little was involved in a collision with a Ringgold player and had an apparent ear injury. She came back in more than four minutes later and went to the line for a pair of free throws, making the second one to get point No. 1,000 for her career.
“I don’t know exactly what happened but she came out saying she couldn’t hear out of her left ear. But she wanted to get back in the game, and we needed her on the court. There is no doubt about that,” Clark said.
Little also hit a 3-pointer in the final minutes — her fifth of the game — to help Rockmart come away with a victory.
Keyarah Berry led all scorers with 24 points, while Little finished with 17 points. Freshman guard Zori Williams had one of her best nights as she hit five 3’s, including three in the first-quarter onslaught, to finish with 16 points.
“We’ve been working on shooting and I’ve told the younger girls that we’ve got to have willing shooters. Because I tell them what goes up must come down. I’d rather have a shot attempt than a turnover all day, every day,” Clark said.
The win was the fourth in a row for Rockmart, who topped Lakeview-Ft. Oglethorpe on the road last Tuesday, Jan. 26, with a dominant 81-13 win. Berry scored 38 and Little had 29 in the game, which sat at 36-4 at halftime.
The Lady Jackets are on the road for the next two weeks to finish the regular season. They will then get ready for the region tournament Feb. 11-15.
“We’ve just got to finish, regardless of who is on the schedule,” Clark said. “We’ve got to continue to try to get better, continue to work on shooting, all of those things, going into the region tournament and the playoffs.”