By Dave Gordon
It was a tale of two halves for both the Southeast Whitfield and the Northwest Whitfield girls basketball teams.
The host Lady Raiders took a 24-23 lead into the break, and led 27-23 just seconds into the third quarter, only to see the lead evaporate. The Lady Bruins went on a 16-0 run to take control of the game in the third quarter and cruised to a 63-33 win in the third-place game at the Southeast Thanksgiving Hoopfest.
“We did a lot of good things (early),” first-year Southeast coach Mike Durham said. “We played hard, played smart and got some good shots. In the second half, we didn’t match their intensity.”
It was just the opposite for the Lady Bruins.
“We were real sluggish (in the first half),” Brown said. “We had a tough game last night against Gordon Lee and it was real taxing on us. I thought we might be a little flat.”
It was the final day of the tournament which was a bracketed-style event for the girls and pool-play event for the boys. In other action on Saturday at the tournament, Dalton’s girls beat Woodland-Bartow in a consolation game. In the boys’ tournament, Southeast fell to Rockmart 64-55, while North Murray’s boys beat Gordon Lee 58-49 in the third-place game.
Meigs County (Tenn.) girls beat Gordon Lee 74-70 in the championship game, while Cobb County’s Campbell topped Meadowcreek 71-69 in the boys’ title game.
For the Lady Raiders, Durham’s team broke out of the gate early, led by two jumpers from senior Megan Collins sandwiching a runner from point guard Sydney Covington, to take a 6-5 lead. There were seven lead changes in the quarter, as both teams swapped buckets until late in the second, when Southeast’s Tavi Parris drained a long 3-pointer from the left wing to put the Lady Raiders (0-2) up by four, 18-14.
The lead would hold until just over a minute left in the half, when the Lady Bruins hit 3-of-4 free throws, coupled with consecutive layups by Mallory Souther and Peyton Maret to cut the lead to one.
After the break, it was all Lady Bruins.
Northwest (1-1) took over after Parris’ 3-pointer to start the second half and didn’t let up. Junior guard Halle Ford hit consecutive 3-pointers from the top of the key, which sparked the second half run. The Lady Bruins outscored Southeast 25-5 in the third quarter, led by Ford’s eight points.
“She (Ford) really got us going,” Brown said. “She hit those two big shots and everybody kind of got involved and kind of fed off that.”
Brown also spoke of his team’s improved play in the third quarter after an inconsistent first half.
“We had a good little talk at halftime and the second half was just totally different,” he said. “Our effort was just better. Loose balls we weren’t getting in the first half, we were getting to in the second half, and we just played with more effort (after the break).”
Durham said that his team’s first-half play improved from the following night.
“We missed a couple shots there and they started making a few,” he said. “It was an uphill battle after that. We started walking the ball up the floor, instead of pushing the ball up the floor and not let them set their defense. They did a great job in the halfcourt defense and just shut us down. It was a much better effort than last night. We just need to bottle up what we did in the first half and try to play that way for a whole game.”
Macy Weeks led a balanced scoring attack for the Lady Bruins with 12 points. Ford had 11, Autumn Blackwell contributed eight and Alice Ann Barber chipped in seven.
Collins led Southeast with 12 points, while Parris finished with 10.
• North Murray boys 58, Gordon Lee 49: The Mountaineers came from behind in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Trojans 21-7 in the final frame for the win.
Gordon Lee led by seven at the half, 26-19, and by five after three quarters, 42-37.
However, the Mountaineers defense and inside play was the difference in the fourth.
Down 44-39 with just over a minute gone, North Murray went on a 9-0 run to take a 48-44 lead midway through the quarter. During the flurry, senior Zach Vess scored inside to tie the game at 44-44, blocked a shot, stole a pass and ended up at the free-throw line at the other end after getting fouled off a pass in the paint. Vess hit both free throws.
Gordon Lee would come right back and cut the lead to one off a 3-pointer by Garrett McAllister.
The teams would then swap buckets, until the ball landed in the hands of Mountaineer Drew Mosteller.
Mosteller found himself in the corner with a wide open look, and hit a huge 3-pointer to put his team up 53-49 with 1:58 to play. After another layup from Vess off a Trojan turnover, Mosteller would again slip past the defense to put the game out of reach with a layup.
Mountaineers coach Tim Ellis was pleased with his team’s play, particularly Vess and Mosteller, down the stretch.
“We had to play more of a methodical game, and execute in the second half which we didn’t do very well in the first half,” Ellis said. “Mosteller is making the most out of his senior year. Every day he comes with a great effort. He always guards the best guard on the other team every night. He held (Gordon Lee’s point guard Daniel Brooks) to zero points in the second half. I think that’s the stat of the night.
“Vess is just a relentless kid, and gets so many touches down low,” Ellis said. “He plays at a high level. He goes full speed, nonstop from the tip. At the end of the first half he took a lot of responsibility, he said, ‘Coach, that one’s on me.’ He turned it around in the second half.”
Vess had 17 second-half points and a game-high 20. Mosteller added 17 for the winners, while forward Brady Swilling chipped in 12.
• Dalton girls 65, Woodland-Bartow 41: The Lady Cats (5-0) continued their hot start and won their second straight without leading scorer Maddie Howell, who is out with an injury.
Carson Sharpe, Brooke Thomas and Hannah Cox picked up the scoring load as Dalton bolted out to a 33-18 lead at the half and cruised to the victory in a consolation game in the tournament.
“Out of our five wins, we have played four pretty good games so far,” Lady Cats’ coach Jeff McKinney said. “We have had a lot of adjusting to do and have had to learn how to play without Maddie. Woodland is not a bad team, and I was really surprised with the outcome today because I thought it would be a lot of closer. Defensively, I have been very pleased.”
Sharpe led the team with 14 points, while Thomas finished with 13. Cox scored 11.
“Hannah is just a sophomore, but she has accepted the challenge and has done extremely well,” McKinney said.
• Rockmart boys 64, Southeast 55: Chaz Payne pulled down 21 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to offset the Raiders missing 18 free throws in dropping their third straight to start the season.
Josue Quintero led Southeast with 15 points, and Devin Gentry added 14. Payne finished with seven points.
• Heritage boys 70, Murray County 61: Three Indians scored in double figures, but a slow start in the first half doomed Murray County in the final day of the Zaxby’s Thanksgiving Classic at Ridgeland.
Murray County (1-2) trailed 34-21 at the half after being outscored 22-8 in the second quarter. However, the Indians made a run in the third quarter and were actually ahead by a bucket midway through the fourth. However, back-to-back turnovers gave the Generals the lead and Heritage made its free throws down the stretch to take the win.
“We didn’t play well in the first half at all,” Murray County coach Greg Linder said. “It was almost like we at too much at Thanksgiving. We got back to the way we expect to play in the second half, but we just dug too much of a hole in the first half.”
Martin Contreras and Matt Corbin each had 13 points in the loss, and Corbin added 11 rebounds. Dillon Cantrell had 12 points and seven boards.
• Heritage girls 65, Murray County 51: In the Zaxby’s Thanksgiving Classic at Ridgeland, Holly Stanfield scored 14 points and Shea Pendley added nine, but it wasn’t enough for the Lady Indians (1-2).
Murray County was down 38-23 at the half and attempted a comeback in the third, but the Lady Generals held on for the win.
• Northwest, Southeast and Gordon Lee all finished in a three-way tie for second, and the Bruins took third on a points tiebreaker at the Heritage Duals in Ringgold.
Alex Reynolds finished with a perfect 5-0 record on the day in the 152-pound weight class to lead the Bruins, who had wins over Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe (48-15), Ridgeland (48-30) and Gordon Lee (39-36). Northwest lost to Southeast (48-33) and Heritage (59-24). The host Generals were a perfect 5-0 to claim the championship. Heritage beat Southeast to cause the tie.
“We like the trophy, but we just need matches,” Northwest coach Allen Tucker said. “We are getting better and getting kids in thrie weight classes. We had a lot of starting kids gone for the holidays, so we got some good mat time for a lot of wrestlers.”
Freshman Anthony Rittenhouse was 2-0 at 120, while Blake Hayes was 3-0 at 106. Garrett Gray wrestled two matches at 160 and won both by pin.