Put me back in coach.
That’s what Jayme Gilbert told Lady Panthers coach Evelyn Wright on Saturday night.
The senior guard was a basket shy of breaking her school record for points in the game when Wright let her back in.
Gilbert finished with 44 points, 10 steals and 10 assists as Americus-Sumter thrashed Terrell County 83-52.
“She really had a good game,” said Wright. “She was hot from the outside — think she had eight 3s. She did a good job. They weren’t playing her, and I couldn’t get it to save my life. They were playing Kayla Bowens and trying to stop her. Every time they played her, they threw it back to Jayme, and she scored. They didn’t get it.”
The Lady Panthers (19-5) came off a disappointing 74-58 loss to Westover in the race for the top seed in Region 1-AAA. They fell behind 19-0, a first for a Wright-coached team.
“I never had a game where we started out (behind) 19-0 as a team,” she said. “I always say you’ve got to stop the bleeding. I told them we have to play to have any chance to win the game. They stepped up and started getting defensive stops. I’ve got to really commend the effort they put forth to come back.”
That effort carried over to Saturday.
Gilbert couldn’t be stopped, so Wright couldn’t do anything but oblige her senior’s request in her last regular season game.
Gilbert broke the record last year with 43 points in a game, a record that was set by Niya Butts in the mid-1990s.
“That’s a milestone; you don’t ever want to stop somebody from breaking a record if it can be set.
“A lot of people are not looking at her because of her height. I know guards are a dime a dozen. She’s one of those fireballs; that’s what I call them. When she gets hot, she gets hot. She will give 99.9 percent of her effort while she’s out there. You can do a lot of things and teach a lot of things, but sometimes hustle, you can’t teach that. That has to be on the inside.”
Wright said Gilbert, Butts and Abril Peeples have been her top three point guards. She said while Peeples made everyone around her better, Gilbert has made all the plays over her career.
But for the Lady Panthers to have success in the postseason, more players have to carry the load.
Adasjah Mercer scored nine points and added 16 rebounds and five steals, and Diamond Denmark grabbed 10 boards.
“Those two are stepping up, and I’ll tell you who’s been down in the dumps a little bit, and that’s (Ashley) Howard,” said Wright. “She hasn’t been producing like she has been. I’ve talked to her. Not only can she score, but she can do things defensively. I tell them a lot of times shooters can have bad nights. But you can do so many other things in basketball. You can get a defensive stop, a defensive rebound, you can get an assist or a steal. We have to get everybody clicking on the same syllable at the same time.”
Americus-Sumter awaits the winner of the Dougherty-Cairo/Worth County winner. The Lady Panthers will return to action at 4 p.m. Thursday at Westover.
Put me back in coach.
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