February 15, 2014

Region 5-3A basketball: Colts come up short, but N. Murray squads survive

Chris Whitfield

— A defensive shift knocked the Coahulla Creek High School boys basketball team off its game Saturday at the Region 5-3A tournament, denying the Colts what would have been their first trip to the state tournament.

For the second straight year, though, North Murray’s boys and girls teams will both go to state.

Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe’s switch to a zone defense in the fourth quarter disrupted the Coahulla Creek boys’ offense, and the Colts didn’t score from the field over the final 11:57 in a 61-50 loss to the Warriors at Cartersville High School.

“When they switched to the zone, it was a great adjustment on their part,” Colts coach Matthew Queener said. “It threw our whole offense out of sync, and it took us a while to adjust. By the time we did, they had built a pretty good lead.”

Also in Region 5-3A, North Murray’s girls secured their state berth with a 58-40 win over Gordon Central, while North Murray’s boys punched their ticket by beating Adairsville 70-45. Also, former Northwest Whitfield girls coach Margaret Stockburger guided sixth-seeded Ringgold to a 46-42 win over third-seeded Adairsville to earn a spot in the state tournament as well.

LFO outscored the Colts 25-12 over the final 12 minutes of the game, and the defensive switch was a big part of that.

Coahulla Creek trailed 34-32 at halftime, but after a back-door basket by LFO’s Daniel Oliver to start the third quarter, the Colts (10-17) took their first lead since the first quarter by scoring the next three buckets. Freshman Tyler Phillips hit a driving basket, Andrew Fisher sunk a 17-footer from the baseline, and then Fisher got a steal and converted at the other end of the floor for a 38-36 lead with 3:57 left in the third quarter.

Zack Powers hit one of the Warriors’ six 3-pointers to push his team back in front before free throws by Dee McCord and Phillips put the Colts ahead 40-39. But that was the last lead for Coahulla Creek, which scored its final 12 points from the free-throw line. For the game, Coahulla Creek was 15 of 26 from the line.

“If we would have made our free throws earlier in the game, we wouldn’t have been in that situation,” McCord said. “Making free throws is something you have to do. They executed more than we did.”

The Colts overcame a 3-pointer onslaught in the first quarter, when the Warriors were 4 of 5 from behind the arc. They were able to keep pace with Fisher leading the way as he scored nine of his 13 points in the first nine minutes of the game.

The Warriors benefited from a three-pronged scoring attack led by Oliver in the middle with a game-high 18 points. Wings Powers and Tanner Bennett scored 16 and 11 points, respectively.

Despite not making the state tournament, Queener said this year’s team raised the bar for the program, which was in its third season.

“It was a 10-win season, and 11 sure would have been nice,” Queener said. “But we had a one-win season and a two-win season and now this year. It would have been great to have made state, but we are a lot closer and a lot better than we were two years ago. Now, we will go back to work and it is just a matter of when we make state, not if.”

North Murray boys 70, Adairsville 45: Usually playing games on back-to-back nights is seen as a disadvantage. North Murray coach Tim Ellis knew he had the advantage and pressed it all night long.

The Mountaineers played and won in the first round of the tournament on Friday, but Ellis saw that as an edge for his team against Adairsville, which hadn’t played a game in more than a week because of weather postponements.

“We felt like we got our legs underneath us a little bit (Friday), and I said we were going to press them right off the bat and not stop,” Ellis said. “We threw caution to the wind and it led to some easy baskets and a few turnovers and a lead and a win.”

The Mountaineers (17-10) advance to play top-seeded Cartersville at 8:30 p.m. Monday in the region semifinals.

Win or lose, North Murray will play in the Class 3A state tournament, the Mountaineers’ third straight trip to state.

Hinton McConkey led the Mountaineers with 19 points, while Drake McCowan added 11 and Adrian Cooks and Jordan Couch each had nine. North Murray went 14 of 19 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.

“I am proud of our kids, and they really did a great job of gutting it out,” Ellis said. “I have been sick, we have been out of school because of the weather, and it doesn’t matter to them. They just keep on going. We have the state tournament again, and that is a big step for the program.”

North Murray girls 58, Gordon Central 40: After going back and forth in the first half, the Lady Mountaineers found their touch outside against Gordon Central — and that made things so much better for Erin Robinson in the paint.

Robinson had a team-high 14 points thanks in large part to the outside shooting of Grace Phillips and Baylee Sutton. Phillips had a pair of 3-pointers in a third quarter in which the Lady Mountaineers (11-15) outscored Gordon Central 18-10 to take control of the game.

In all, North Murray had eight different players find the basket and outscored the Lady Warriors 33-18 in the second half.

“Defensively — knock on wood — we have been holding teams down all year long,” North Murray coach Keith Robinette said. “We haven’t had everyone offensively and haven’t been able to get it all together. Now, finally, everyone is healthy and you have kids stepping up and making plays.”

Phillips had nine points, while Sutton finished with eight for North Murray, which advances to face host Cartersville at 7 p.m. Monday in the semifinals.

Region 7-2A

Calhoun girls 48, Murray County 39: Seniors McKenzie Carroll and Caitlyn Sims combined for 31 points, but host Calhoun led by 13 at the end of the first half and was in control throughout.

On the line in the game was a spot in the region semifinals and a trip to state.

“Basically, we couldn’t score until the fourth quarter,” Murray County coach Michael Hill said. “We tried to make a good run and fell a little short of making it to state.”

Carroll finished with 17, while Sims scored 14 for the Lady Indians (9-18).