Area Sports...

DECEMBER 22, 2004

Lady Leopards lynch Lady Tigers
Banks County’s Lady Leopards out-played the Lady Tigers from Commerce Saturday, defeating the team 69-28.
Lady Leopard head coach Jodie Watkins said Saturday’s win over rival Commerce boosted the confidence of some of the players.
“I thought it would be closer than it was,” she said about the 69-28 defeat.
Banks County led by 15 points at the end of the first quarter. The Lady Leopards racked up 23 points while holding Commerce to eight. It was the first of four single-digit scoring attempts for Commerce and double-digit scores for the Lady Leopards.
Banks County stretched its lead to 27 points by the half, 40-13, after losing points leader Kayla Duncan in the first quarter. Duncan had two fouls called against her in the first quarter and was benched after scoring only four points.
“I think pulling Duncan was good for the team because the other girls had to step up and play,” Watkins said.
Duncan returned in the third quarter and contributed three points to the team’s 12. Banks County still had the lead, 52-22. When it was all over, the Lady Leopards defeated the Lady Tigers, 69-28.
Every player listed on the Banks County roster played at least one quarter and most contributed offensively to the team’s win. However, no one contributed as much as high-scorer Kayla Parks. Parks put up 20 points in the first half alone — half of the team’s score at halftime. She led the offensive effort putting up 22 points, and was the only Lady Leopard to score in double-digits on Saturday. She also retrieved more than ten rebounds.
Watkins said she was glad the team took an overwhelming early lead because it gave the team an opportunity to play some of its inexperienced players.
“It was nice to give everyone a chance to play,” Watkins said.
Hope Autry came off the bench in the fourth quarter and scored nine points in seven minutes on the floor, including one from beyond the arc. She was second to Parks in scoring for the game and she only played one quarter.
Other players who came off the bench and contributed to the Banks County win offensively were: Candas Tyner, six points; Ashley Blevins, three; Brooke Whitmire, three; and Andrea Hunter, two.
Watkins said the offense made the difference and gave the Lady Leopards the momentum to finish the game.
Blevins was paired up with Brittany Sewell, Lady Tiger leading scorer. Sewell led Commerce in scoring with seven points, two below her average.
“Blevins had a good game, she had several assists and she stopped (Sewell) defensively,” Watkins said.
The Lady Leopards will compete in the Battle of the States Tournament December 27 through 29. Games will be held at Towns County High School in Hiawassee.

Continuing to turn heads
Victories over No. 10 Social Circle, Oconee Co. improve Lady Dragons to 10-0 this season
If No. 3 Jefferson is going to drop a game this season before the new year begins, it will have to happen next week during the Sweet South Classic. That’s all that remains on the schedule before 2005.
So far this season the Lady Dragons have, for the most part, run away from the early season competition they’ve faced — literally. Using an aggressive pressing style Jefferson has managed to force plenty of turnovers, use their quickness to spawn a host of transition baskets, and as a result start 10-0.
The Lady Dragons will now head to the Watkinsville bracket of one of the larger prep holiday tournaments around beginning Monday, as they look to remain unblemished and perhaps move closer toward a top ranking in Class A.
All of the aforementioned is nice, according to head coach Brandy Corbett, but don’t let the squad’s impressive start fool you, she cautions.
“There are so many things that we’ve still got to improve on,” Corbett said following her team’s latest win over Oconee County on Monday.
“There are a lot of good teams in our bracket (at the Sweet South Classic) and that’s going to be just what we need. That’s going to be a great test for us.”
Preparing for those meaningful January contests is the most important thing for Corbett right now. Foremost on her preparation agenda will be finding a way to improve her team’s half-court defense, which has lagged some recently, she said.
Against the Lady Warriors on Monday that aspect of their game could have cost them a win.
Despite coming away with a 45-37 triumph, the Lady Dragons let a lead of more than 20 points dwindle down to single digits by the fourth quarter.
“There were certainly opportunities where (Oconee) could have taken the game from us, but we handled the pressure,” Corbett said. “I think we panicked because we let them back in the game,” she said. “But I was proud of the girls for still pulling out the win.”
Indeed, hanging on to big leads may well continue to be something the Lady Dragons need to learn to do — especially if they continue to amass such impressive margins over their opponents.
Friday against Social Circle in arguably the most important win of the year so far, the Lady Dragons were able to run away with an easy 69-36 win despite an early deficit.
The Lady Dragons fell behind 13-11 following the first quarter of play, but they picked up the pace after that. Nesia Hester poured in an important career high 19 points to help earn the victory.
Because the Lady Redskins came out with a triangle-and-two defense designed to stop leading Jefferson scorers Shenita Moon and Shalita Brooks, Hester’s ability to provide a third scoring option was crucial, Corbett explained. The senior post player’s presence on the glass was also felt, as she pulled down nine rebounds.
Brooks led all Lady Dragon scorers with 21 points, and Moon chipped in with 17 and six steals.
A huge 24-4 run to start the second half put Jefferson ahead for good and sealed the victory just the second time in the last seven meetings with the Lady Redskins.
“Our press started working real well and then all of a sudden we were up 26 and then we really never looked back,” Corbett said. “We wanted to beat Social (Circle). We were very hungry against them.”
The victory was the first game that officially counts in the region standings for both teams. It was the first of nine dates on the region schedule during which all Region 8-A squads will play each other with games counting toward the region standings. Other contests between region foes will also take place, however only the designated dates will count in the standings.

Breaking On A High Note
Tigers Best Banks Before Holiday Hiatus
Commerce lost the game that counted for region positioning but won the one that counted in the pride column over the weekend.
Coming off a 70-56 region loss to Towns County on Friday in its region opener, the Tigers (5-2, 0-1) exorcised themselves from a four-game losing streak to Banks County by outlasting the Leopards down the stretch in a 53-46 win this past Saturday night.
It was Commerce’s first victory over its neighboring rival since Vonté Reed drained a game-winner against the Leopards in overtime in 2002 and now the team goes into the holiday break at 5-2.
“I’m tickled that we’re 5-2. I wish we could have beat Towns County. I wish we were 6-1, but we’re not,” Tiger head coach Rex Gregg said.
Commerce’s next foe is Spalding County which it will face Dec. 29 at 8:30 p.m. in the opening round of the Tigers’ own holiday tournament. Spalding County is a Class AAAA squad and “should have some talent” according to Gregg.
The boys’ side of the tournament will also feature Greene County and Habersham Central.
Commerce goes into the holidays on a high note even though it squandered a 16-point lead against Banks County.
The Tigers salvaged the win with a big shot by Tyson Randolph with 1:10 left which regained the Tiger lead and then some timely free throw shooting down the stretch which secured the victory.
For the reset of the story see this weeks Commerce News.

Growing pains
Lady Panthers drop two of three during tournament
The Jackson County girls’ basketball squad is finding out what head coach Chad Pittman knew all along heading into this season — experience matters.
With the loss of three dynamic starters to graduation last year, the Lady Panthers are quickly finding out that life without Nikki Sosebee, Tosha Ransom and Cece Hill is not easy. The trio accounted for 38 points per game, 25 rebounds per game, and nine assists per game last season. And so far Pittman’s team has had a tough time replacing those numbers this season.
The Lady Panthers (2-9) most recent loss to Habersham Central on Tuesday night was a game during which Jackson County’s relative inexperience was on display. After jumping out to a 7-0 lead early on thanks to junior guard Tynishia Berry scoring all of her team’s points, the Lady Panthers had a rough second quarter and trailed 36-19 at the half. Eventually they fell 70-48 as the Lady Raiders used what Pittman described as a more physically dominating performance to dominate Jackson County.
“We’re still about a step slow at times and that’s just inexperience,” Pittman explained. “Our intentions are probably good, but we’re just not there yet. Really, we’re still trying to learn how to play the game in some instances.”
While last year’s state tournament squad from Jackson County thrived on its low-post game, this year’s squad is seeing a host of new starters in the paint struggle against taller, more physical teams.
Case in point was Tuesday’s contest which saw the Lady Panthers outscored 30-8 in the post.
The loss Tuesday was the last of a three-game tournament hosted by JCCHS. Monday the Lady Panthers also fell to Mill Creek, 55-46, and Saturday Jackson County defeated Apalachee 74-65.
One particular bright spot for Pittman’s team has been the play of Tynishia Berry of late. She is averaging better than 23 points per game this season, but has been especially hot of late (see related story on page 1B of this weeks Jackson Herald). Saturday the junior guard willed her team to just their second victory of the season by scoring a career-high 39 points. Jessica Schwartz and Brooke Hughes also chipped in with 12 points apiece.
Despite their 1-2 record in the tournament, Pittman noted that the strenuous early-season competition it provided was much needed.
“This tournament was a good test for our team because you play three games in four days,” he said.
Monday, against Mill Creek, Berry continued to shine although this time her 27 points were not enough.
“She’s putting it together right now,” Pittman said. “We’ve just got to get her some help.”
Although Hughes also chipped in with 13 points against the Lady Raiders, the majority of those points came after the game was already decided, Pittman explained.

Lady Raiders have holiday hopes
What will holiday tourney hold for MCHS girls?
The Lady Raiders hope there’s some holiday cheer in store for them at the large and diverse Sweet South Classic next week.
A win of any kind would be fine for them — no special gift wrapping or style points needed.
“They’re kind of down right now,” Lady Raider head coach Julie Phillips said of her team. “They’re determined and still play hard but there’s no confidence right now. And that will only come when they get that first win.”
The team hopes that first win of the season comes three days after Christmas when it opens play Dec. 28 at 11 a.m. in the “E” bracket the Sweet South Classic against a Putnam County team that has size and quickness according to Phillips.
The multi-tournament event features 39 girls teams, 15 of which will be from out-of-state including one team — Buenta — which hails from California according to the South Sweet Classic website.
The teams will be grouped into five different tournaments in three different locations.
Win on the first day, and they’ll play the winner of Winder-Barrow and Northwest Christian (Fla.) Dec. 29. Lose and they’ll face the loser of that game on that date.
Going into the event, Gigi Soto continues to carry the offensive load for the Lady Raiders as she’s scored in double figures the past three games. Soto tallied 12 points against Rockdale County and provided 10 points in both the Winder-Barrow and Franklin County games.
“Gigi has played unbelievable,” Phillips said. “She’s awesome. She’s been our most consistent scorer and rebounder.”
For the rest of the story see this weeks Madison County Journal.

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