Earlier in the day, Providence Christian girls basketball coach Jeff Linder didn’t know if Shekinah McDaniel or Emma Houston would even be able to play.
Thankfully for the Eagles, the two suited up and performed well despite being under the weather.
McDaniel, a point guard, scored eight of the Eagles’ final nine points and had a game-high 16 during a 41-36 win over Houston Academy in the Class 3A, Area 4 girls basketball championship game on Friday.
Houston added nine points to follow McDaniel in scoring for Providence.
The Eagles improved to 16-12 and will host Straughn on Monday night in the sub-regional. Houston Academy is now 16-10 and will travel to play Geneva in the sub-regional.
“She (McDaniel) was sick this morning and Emma got sick at lunch,” Linder said. “But we were able to get them a little bit of rest and they just played through it.
“I asked them if they would be OK, and they said they would be OK for an hour and a half. That’s just the kind of grit this team has got.”
The Eagles needed all their weapons to hold off a determined Houston Academy bunch. Providence had beaten HA in the two regular-season meetings, but the Raiders put up their best fight in the title game.
Houston Academy led 29-28 during the opening minutes of the fourth quarter following a basket by Caley Caldwell and the game was tied at 34-34 with 4:15 left following another Caldwell basket.
But McDaniel put Providence back on top by driving the lane with a basket and Autumn Mayes made it a four-point lead when she scored on a power move inside with 2:47 left.
McDaniel hit one of two free throws to extend the lead to 39-34 with 1:31 left before Lyvi King scored inside for Houston Academy to make it a three-point game with still 1:20 left.
After Emma Williams made one of two free throws with 1:09 left, the Raiders’ Camille Reeves got a good look at a 3-pointer, but it banked off no good and Providence came down with the rebound.
McDaniel hit a free throw with 9.2 seconds left for the final margin of victory.
Reeves led Houston Academy in scoring with 12 points, while Caldwell added nine.
The game was tight throughout as Houston Academy successfully worked the ball inside to Lauren Baker and Branham Hewes early in the game.
Baker scored the Raiders’ first six points, while the Eagles’ first nine points came by way of 3-pointers — one by Houston and two by McDaniel.
“They want you to play slow and they want low scoring games,” Linder said of Houston Academy. “We’re really at our best when we’re getting up and down the court and putting pressure.
“Our defensive pressure was not real good tonight. And I think some of that is two of the ones we expect to pressure a lot were sick. But HA did a great job of making us play the way they wanted us to.”
Providence built a 20-14 advantage midway through the second quarter following a basket by Williams and led 22-15 after a basket by Megan Stewart.
But Reeves scored on a break and hit a 3-pointer from the wing to conclude the first half scoring in pulling the Raiders within 22-20 at the break.
Both teams struggled offensively in the third quarter.
After MaryLynn Solomon got Providence going with a basket to open the third quarter, HA responded with a putback by Baker and two free throws by Caldwell to tie it up.
Providence regained the lead when Houston hit a jumper in the lane, but Ashlyn Conner hit a 3-pointer to put the Raiders up 27-26, which is where the score stood going into the fourth quarter.
Houston gave Providence back the lead with a lane jumper to open the final period and Caldwell answered with a drive to make it 29-28 in favor of the Raiders.
But Williams scored to give Providence back the lead for good and McDaniel got in gear to eventually put the game away.