Area Sports...

FEBRUARY 4, 2004

Looking For Momentum
CHS Seeks A Late Surge Before Upcoming Region 8-A Tournament
As a general rule, coaches like to avoid using “loss” and “positive” in the same breath.
But when your team stands toe-to-toe with fourth-ranked Jefferson and holds its own, it speaks for something.
Commerce heads into the final week of the regular season on the heels of a fast and physical 74-66 loss to rival Jefferson Saturday in which it held a 10-point lead at one point in the first half.
“That’s the best we’ve played all year,” Gregg said. “The guys gave a tremendous effort.”
Commerce shot 42 percent from the field in the loss, drained eight three-pointers and weren’t unraveled by Jefferson’s full-court pressure.
Gregg hopes the team can maintain the confidence it seemed to possess in the loss to Jefferson which he said was the most impressive aspect of the group’s night.
“This seemed like the first time (against Jefferson) in three years that its seemed like our players felt they were going to win.”
The Tigers proved to be a stubborn team both nights this past weekend actually, giving 11th-ranked Athens Academy all it could handle, leading in the fourth quarter before falling 54-46.
Overall, Gregg said his team made significant strides the past two games, even though they’ll go down in the loss column.
He was particularly impressed with the team’s defensive play, especially after having a bad outing on that side of the ball recently against Rabun Gap.
Commerce held Athens Academy to just 35 percent from the floor Friday night and picked up several first half turnovers against Jefferson.
Offensively, the Tigers were solid, shooting over 40 percent in both losses this weekend.
Now, the team needs to just get back into the win column Gregg said.
Commerce — which had a Tuesday matchup with Rabun Gap (results weren’t available — finishes up the regular season with a Friday rematch with Social Circle which it beat 54-45 back on Jan. 16.
“Hopefully, we can knock down two wins this week and gain some momentum,” Gregg said Monday prior the contest with Rabun Gap.
Commerce, at 4-3 in the sub-region, is currently third in the 8-A South division but is still in the running for the second seed out of the sub-region in the region tournament which begins Tuesday in Towns County with play-in games between the four seeds playing five seeds.
While the south sub-region has yet to be decided, there’s also been a shakeup in the north sub-region.
Towns County had to forfeit three games — one of those being against Commerce — for use of an ineligble player.
Towns County, perhaps the second-best team in the region, has dropped to third in the North sub-region.
If the season ends that way, the second-seed from the South would have the task of facing the Indians which boast a wealth of size.
The top four teams from the region will advance to the first round of the state tournament.


Lady Leopards beat Union County, 63-56
Kayla Duncan reaches 1,003 career points, her junior year
Intensity was high in the Banks County High School gymnasium Friday as Kayla Duncan set records and the Lady Leopards defeated Union County.
DUNCAN REACHES 1,003
Fans counted down as Duncan reached 1,003 career points and 1,000 career rebounds in Friday’s game. It is rare for someone to reach this milestone, especially as a junior.
Duncan needed to earn 18 points in Friday’s game to reach 1,000, she exceeded all expectations and earned 21. The crowd went wild every time she touched the ball, knowing one more basket meant she had reached her goal. It happened in the fourth quarter with 1:53 left to play. The game stopped. The announcement came over the load speaker and the team celebrated.
Duncan hit one three-point shot, seven field goals and four from the charity stripe.
This season, Duncan has earned 363 points, she is the leading scorer for the team. She averages 16.5 points a game and is 55 percent, 63 for 115, from the stripe.
BANKS 63, UNION 56
Banks County started the game with the lead and held on to it for 32 long minutes, ending with a 63-56 victory over a tough Union County team.
The Lady Leopards started with 10 on the board, a three-point lead over Union County. They added another 10 in the second and held Union to three widening the gap to 10.
Banks scored another 18 in the third, but allowed Union 10. The Lady Leopards went into the fourth leading by 18.
Thoughts surrounded the upcoming senior night recognition ceremony and Duncan’s looming record and Banks County allowed Union County to score 36 points in the fourth quarter, threatening the win. The Lady Leopards held their own, scoring 25 points in the fourth and taking home the win, 63-56.
Duncan led the scoring for the game with 21 points.
Kayla Parks put up 15. Heather Beck added 8. Chastico Beasley earned five.
Lauren Reiselt and Nicole Powell each earned three from beyond the arc. Mandy Slaton put up two.
WHAT’S NEXT
The team will play again this Friday against Appalachee at Winder. The game will begin at 7 p.m. and it is the final game of the regular season.
Banks County is currently tied for first in the sub-region with Dawson and Union County. Dawson County played Union County Tuesday night. If Union County won, Banks is in first place. If Dawson won, Banks is still tied for first. Either way, Banks needs to win Friday to stay at the top.


Ready for region
Lady Dragons to face Commerce on Tues. in 8-A tourney
The Jefferson girls will head to the Region 8-A tournament next week in Hiawassee as the third seed from the North subregion.
Tuesday night the Lady Dragons lost to Lakeview 44-43, thus ensuring them of the third spot behind the Lions and Towns County.
A win Tuesday would have meant they were still in the hunt for the subregion championship. Instead, the Lady Dragons (14-10, 4-3 in Region 8-A North) will meet rival Commerce next Tuesday in the first round of the region tournament. The winner of that contest will clinch a spot in the Class A state tournament.
Jefferson head coach Brandy Corbett is encouraged by the way her team has played of late, but stated that it has been the little things that have cost them several close games.
“I feel optimistic about next week,” Corbet said. “I feel like we’re playing better. It will be interesting to see how we respond though, but the thing I told the girls is that it doesn’t matter what we’ve done up to this point.”
Corbett will undoubtedly be stressing that last point to her squad, especially considering the ease with which the Lady Dragons defeated Commerce last Saturday.
After a sluggish first half, Jefferson responded with a 37-13 second half, capped by a 23-6 fourth quarter run to knock off their arch rivals.
But Tuesday night things were a bit different. The Lady Dragons were outscored 13-6 in the game’s final period after leading. Corbett cited seven costly turnovers in the final period as a major reason why her squad was defeated.
“We just did a poor job of executing down the line. We put ourselves in a great situation to win the game, we had a one point lead with 25 seconds to go in the game and we just didn’t execute like we needed to.”
Shenita Moon led the Lady Dragons with 15 points, Shalita Brooks chipped in with 10.
Lakeside’s Chelsey Chastain had a game-high 23 points and Christi Thomas had seven points and 10 rebounds. The Lions play Rabun Gap on Friday.
The Lions (17-5, 8-1 in Region 8-A North) are in a race with Towns County for the top seed in the subregion. Jefferson hosts the Lady Indians Friday, however regardless of the outcome of that game the Lady Dragons will be seeded third.
Jefferson will hope to turn things around in the region tournament by concentrating on what Corbett called the team’s mission statement all year long — focusing on the little things.
“When you lose by one point you can look at a variety of things (that cost us the game),” Corbett explained.


Lady Panthers end three-game losing skid
Leadership led the way for Jackson County, fittingly enough, on senior night Tuesday, as the Lady Panthers came out hard and ran away from Madison County en route to a 46-29 win.
The victory enabled the Lady Panthers to remain in the running for a top-two seeding in next week’s region tournament. The Lady Panthers (16-8, 6-3 in Region 8-AAAA North) will play Clarke Central in their final regular season game Friday in Athens. Their seeding next week will largely depend on the outcome of that contest and the results of Cedar Shoals and Habersham Central, who also have games remaining.
“It all boils down to Friday night,” Jackson County head coach Chad Pittman said following the win.
Tuesday, the Lady Panthers were just happy to get back to winning, especially following their longest losing streak of the season, a three-game skid that saw them fall to Habersham Central, Newton and Cedar Shoals.
Against the Lady Raiders though, Pittman’s squad focused on stopping their opponent, and they used that aspect of their play to spur points at the other end.
“Tonight our main focus was a smothering defense,” Pittman explained. “I felt like we really came out and did a good job early and that got us going.”
Jackson County led 19-4 following the first quarter and was up 23-13 at the half. From there Pittman stated that his seniors continued to lead as they have all season and helped the team stay focused and not let Madison County back into the game.
The senior trio of Nikki Sosebee, Tosha Ransom and Krista Bess led Jackson County in scoring, with Ransom and Sosebee tying for a game-high 13 points apiece. Bess chipped in with seven.
“We appreciate what (the seniors) have done for us over the years,” Pittman said. “They’ve really meant a lot to us, but hopefully we can keep playing a while longer (this season).”


Magic in the postseason?
Coile says you just never know what can happen come tournament time
Tournament time is not always an exact science. For every favorite, there’s always a CinderellA that will emerge.
And it’s the hope for unpredictable that the 4-19 Madison County Lady Raiders will take into the postseason with them..
Head coach Latana Coile said there’s nothing her team can do about its situation with its regular season record now, but come region tournament time, everyone’s 0-0 and anything can happen.
“Maybe we can go in there and win one and if we do, hey, we’re one game away from the state tournament,” Coile said. “Like I told the girls, no matter what kind of season you’ve had, if you get a trip to state, that validates everything.”
The Lady Raiders — which fell to Jackson County 46-29 Tuesday night — are tied with Winder-Barrow right now for the fifth seed out of the North sub-region.
Madison County, which has dropped three straight games since beating Heritage last Saturday, still has an opportunity to finish ahead of the Lady Bulldoggs and if that happens, it would take on either Heritage or Salem in it’s first-round region tournament action Tuesday at Newton County.
The Lady Raiders’ post season seeding will be secured this Friday night as it takes on Habersham Central in their regular season finale in Danielsville which also happens to be senior night.
Other than obviously wanting to put a positive end to a tough regular season, the team also wants to send its four-year performers out in style, Coile said.
“The seniors are anxious to go out on their home court on a winning note,” she said. “They’ve contributed a lot to this program over the last four years. We owe it to them as a team to go out and have a good effort and have a good win.”
To make that happen, Madison County has to make sure it doesn’t repeat the start it got off to in Tuesday night’s sub-region loss to Jackson County.
After playing a fairly competitive game in a Jan. 13 matchup with Lady Panthers — ranked 12th last weeks Class AAAA poll — the Lady Raiders were ambushed in the first quarter, falling behind 19-4 after the period.
The opening quarter was essentially the knockout punch as Madison County never recovered.
Jackson County took a 27-13 lead into the locker room, ran its edge out to 18 after three quarters and then went up by 23 in the fourth after a three-pointer by Nikki Sosbee, who along with Tosha Ransom, led the team with 13 points.
Coile said her team simply came out flat.
“We were disappointed with our first quarter,” she said. “We just didn’t play with the intensity that we needed.”
While Madison County had a poor start against the Lady Panthers, the team had tough final two quarters three days earlier in its Friday loss to Winder-Barrow.
The Lady Raiders took a 34-25 lead early in the third quarter against the Lady Bulldogs with a 10-2 run to start the second half of that game but scored just 11 points the rest of the way in a 50-45 loss.
Madison County had downed Winder-Barrow 47-41 in the teams’ Jan. 16 meeting.
“We felt like they were a team that we could beat,” Coile said. “We didn’t play a terrible game. I just think that Winder-Barrow played a better game that it did the first time.”
A bright spot in the loss was the play of Jessica Bentle who gave the team a huge lift in her fourth game back from a lengthy absence due to illness.
Bentle hit three three-pointers in the first half and scored 13 points in the first two quarters in finishing with 18 points.
“She had an awesome first half against Winder-Barrow,” Coile said. “That was a valiant effort on her part to come back from missing all that practice. That was big, not only for us, but for her as well.”
The coach also pointed to the efforts of her front court players this past week as well, all of which she said are improving and that includes the youngest of the group — Jessica Howard.
Coile added that she’s been particularly impressed with the play of the sophomore who started the year on the JV but was pulled up to the varsity after Ashley Dinsmore went down with an injury. Coile said Howard is really starting to become comfortable on the offensive said of the ball.
“She’s done a good job off the bench in the post area,” Coile said. “She’s really had a lot of improvement at that position and is really wanting the ball. And that’s something that we really haven’t had on this team — someone who wants the ball in pressure situations. That is nice to see.”

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