Sports

February 4, 2014

Holding steady

Lady Raiders and Dalton boys earn key league wins

Southeast Whitfield High School’s girls basketball team didn’t do things exactly the way coach Mike Durham wanted Tuesday night, but the Lady Raiders got the job done — and in the process, they solidified their spot as the No. 3 seed from Sub-region 7B-4A for next week’s region tournament.

Dalton’s Lady Catamounts undoubtedly wish they had three possessions in the final minute of the game to do over again. They are now in jeopardy of having to play an extra game in the Region 7-4A tournament.

The Lady Raiders led the entire game and held off the host Lady Catamounts in a 54-49 victory. Dalton’s boys made it a split, leading by at least 20 points for much of the second half while taking an 81-65 victory.

The Lady Raiders (15-8), who improved to 4-4 in sub-region play, will travel to Heritage-Catoosa tonight and face LaFayette in their regular-season finale Friday night. With Ridgeland’s loss to Northwest Whitfield on Tuesday night, Southeast will finish third in the sub-region standings behind Northwest and Heritage.

Dalton (10-11, 3-5 Sub-region 7B-4A) and Ridgeland will play Friday night with the No. 4 spot on the line. The loser will have to play the No. 6 seed from Sub-region 7A on Saturday at Cass High School, while top-four seeds won’t start tournament play until next week.

“Dalton made us earn it, but I’m real happy to have that third seed,” Durham said. “We missed a lot of free throws down the stretch and didn’t play very smart with the ball in the last couple of minutes.”

The Lady Raiders had a six-point lead with 2:08 to go in the game and twice tried to push the ball down the court and drive to the basket rather than kick the ball out to burn some clock. Those possessions, along with missing three free throws, allowed Dalton to close to 51-48 on Sarah Hartshorn’s two free throws with 1:00 left in the game.

But on three trips down the court in the final seconds, the Lady Cats were forced by the Southeast defense to take difficult shots.

“We would have liked to have better shots at the end,” Dalton coach Lacie Coquerille said. “We had three opportunities and I really wasn’t happy with any of the possessions.”

Southeast’s lead never dropped below three points, and the Lady Raiders’ Cricket Wyatt, who had 19 points to lead all scorers, hit a pair of free throws with 45 seconds remaining to stretch the lead.

Wyatt said she hopes her team can learn to be smarter closing out a game with the lead.

“Most of the time we play just a half in the games that we have lost,” Wyatt said. “We will start out strong and lose it at the end or start slow and make a comeback to get close. But we have had people stepping up to make us more complete.”

The game was close throughout with neither team leading by more than six points in the first half. While Dalton tied the game at 18 midway through the second quarter, the Lady Raiders never lost their lead.

In addition to Wyatt’s points, Maddie Pearson had four 3-pointers and added 16 for Southeast.

Dalton was led by Hannah Cox’s 14 points, seven rebounds and two blocks, while Hartshorn added 14 points.

“We did what we needed to do, and we are starting to see some depth,” Durham said. “That has been a big help in the last couple of weeks, and we are fortunate to have that this time of the year.”

• Dalton boys 81, Southeast Whitfield 65: With their win over the Raiders (6-17, 2-6) the Cats (16-5, 7-1) added some meaning to their showdown at Northwest on Thursday night.

Dalton is 16-5 overall and 7-1 in Sub-region 7B-4A. Northwest’s boys are now 6-2 in sub-region play. If Dalton beats the Bruins, Dalton will win the sub-region outright. If Northwest wins, Dalton would have to beat Ridgeland on Friday to force a coin flip for the title.

Either way, Dalton will be no worse than a No. 2 seed for the region tournament.

Dalton was led by Emier Bowman’s 25 points and nine rebounds. Braxton Thomas added 16, while Jeffrey Brown and Mark Sims each scored 11.

Southeast was led by Ty Pendley with 22 points and Rhett Harper added 15.

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