On the surface, Ariel Lineberger’s stat line from Tuesday’s game might not seem all that impressive: 2-for-2 field goals, four points, two rebounds, an assist and a blocked shot.
Those who saw the game might hold a different opinion, however.
The McDowell Lady Titans held off the St. Stephens Indians 50-43 Tuesday in a see-saw battle that turned McDowell’s way for good after Lineberger, who has played sparingly this season because of injuries, made a couple of key baskets down the stretch and helped slow down the Indians’ biggest threat with her physical defensive play.
“I’m so proud of her,” said Lady Titans head coach Jennifer Kinninger. “She is the most team-focused player I have had in a really long time. She’s always ready to go; she’s always encouraging her teammates. She got her chance tonight to step up, and she did. I thought that sparked us and gave us a lot of intensity.”
Lineberger had plenty of help, however.
Guard Dezi Williams scored a team-high 14 points, 12 of them in the second half, and swiped eight steals. Makayla Brewer (11 rebounds) and Lily McKinney (6 rebounds) tossed in nine points apiece, and Hayley Creasman (4 assists) added eight.
All were critical to McDowell’s late-game run.
The Lady Titans (6-3 Northwestern 3A/4A Conference, 12-7) trailed 14-9 after one period and 28-22 at the break. McDowell pulled ahead 32-31 after three, but things were just getting started.
There were five lead changes and a tie in the first three minutes of the final period before Lineberger corralled a McDowell miss and put it back in for a 39-37 lead with 5:08 to go.
The Lady Titans never trailed again.
On the other end, Williams forced a turnover, and then Creasman found Lineberger on the baseline for a 12-footer that made it 41-37 with 4:20 remaining.
St. Stephens’ Amiya Randles hit a 3-pointer to get her team back within 41-40, but Candace Cooper answered with a triple for McDowell to make it 44-40 with 3:45 to play.
From there, it was a matter of making free throws, and Brewer canned both ends of a one-and-one with 20 seconds to play to seal the outcome.
St. Stephens (3-5, 10-7) post Tori Tomlinson, a 6-foot-1 senior, used her height and size advantage to score 17 points on 6-of-7 field-goal shooting. Randles went 4-of-7 from 3-point range and finished with 12.
The two reserves combined to outscore the Indians’ starters 29-14.
McKinney and Brewer both banged on Tomlinson in the paint for the better part of three quarters, and Lineberger provided some fresh legs for McDowell in the fourth quarter against the powerful post player.
The Lady Titans are all alone in third place in the league standings. South Caldwell, the conference’s only other 4A program, is in fourth place with a 4-4 league mark. Only one guaranteed State 4A Playoff berth is available to the league, so McDowell’s final five games will be crucial.
The Lady Titans host league-leading Watauga Friday night.
St. Stephens (43) Ryleigh Rhodes 2-5 1-2 5, Makayla Stafford 2-7 0-0 4, Logan Norris 1-5 0-0 3, Katie Morgan 1-1 0-0 2, Catherine McMahan 0-3 0-0 0, Amiya Randles 4-7 0-0 12, Alaysha McHenry 0-2 0-0 0, Lindsey O’Mara 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 16-39 6-9 43.
McDowell (50) Hayley Creasman 3-8 0-0 8, Lily McKinney 4-7 1-4 9, Makayla Brewer 3-8 3-4 9, Dezi Williams 6-12 0-0 14, Candace Cooper 2-7 0-0 6, Zoe Miller 0-2 0-0 0, Taylor Buchanan 0-2 0-0 0, Katelyn Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Silese Carson 0-1 0-0 0, Ariel Lineberger 2-2 0-0 4. Totals: 20-49 4-8 50.
St. Stephens 14 14 03 12 – 43
McDowell 09 13 10 18 – 50
Rebounds: SS (22) McDowell (25) Rebound leaders: SS (Rhodes 7) McDowell (Brewer 11) 3-point goals: SS (5-14) McDowell (6-17) SS (Norris 1-3, Stafford 0-2, McMahan, O’Mara 0-1, Randles 4-7) McDowell (Williams 2-6, Cooper, Creasman 2-4, Miller 0-2, Carson 0-1) McDowell assist leaders: (Creasman 4) McDowell steals leaders: (Williams 8) McDowell blocked shot leaders: (Williams, McKinney, Brewer, Lineberger 1) Turnovers: SS (21) McDowell (16)