By Robert Wilson

The women’s college basketball fans in Huntsville, Ala., don’t know it yet, but they will find out next season they are getting a clutch performer in Andie Flatgard of Jackson Prep.

         Once again, the 5-foot-6 senior point guard and Alabama-Huntsville signee delivered in the clutch Tuesday night against rival Jackson Academy in an intense, MAIS Class 6A game before a packed house at JA.

         Flatgard scored a game-high 21 points, including eight points in the final two minutes, to give Prep a 38-35 victory.

         Prep improved to 26-2 overall and are tied for first with Hartfield Academy at 5-1 in league play. JA dropped to 17-7 and 2-4, 0-2 against Prep this season.

         JA trailed most of the game but took its biggest lead at 35-31 on two free throws by eighth-grader Gracelynn Carmichael with 2 minutes, 5 seconds to play. That’s when Flatgard turned it up a notch. She made a jumper in the lane, was fouled, and converted the 3-point play by making a free throw to cut the lead to 35-34 with 1:55 to play. Then, Flatgard hit a step back 3-pointer from the top of the key to give Prep a 37-35 lead with 1:11 to play. JA missed a shot with 14 seconds to play and Flatgard grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 10 seconds. She made one free throw for a 38-35 lead, then JA missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer.

         Flatgard – a member of the Priority One Bank Metro Jackson Preseason Elite 11 Team – finished with 21 points, 3 3-pointers, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and no turnovers.

         “Andie has been our leader all season and really hit some big shots for us late, none bigger than the 3 that gave us the lead for good,” Prep coach Michael McAnally said. “That’s two years in a row she’s hit a game winner for us in this building (Flatgard made a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Prep an overtime win at JA last season). But it was really a team effort for us tonight, especially on the defensive end and getting some stops late when we had to have them.”

         “Our turnaround (late in the game) was our seniors being seniors,” Flatgard said. “We’ve been in situations like that before, and it didn’t phase anyone. This game was one that took every person on our team doing the little things: every rebound, assist, and player on the bench. My teammates are my best friends, and you can tell by the way we play together out there. I’m so proud of how hard my teammates played out there. It would have been hard to back down with the fourth quarter energy we had.”

         JA coach Jan Sojourner will probably be happy when Flatgard is playing at Alabama-Huntsville instead of Prep. She seems to always have good games against JA. Flatgard scored 23 points – 10 in the first five minutes – to lead Prep to a 44-24 victory over JA earlier this season.

         “Andie was the difference in the end, she made the plays to win it,” Sojourner said. “She’s a nice player. I was pleased how we played in the first half. We battled and we fought. We gave ourselves a chance to win. We just couldn’t get it down at the end.”

         JA senior forward Nae Nae Ellis – a member of the Elite 11 like Flatgard – had 18 points and a game-high seven rebounds.