The Banks County Lady Leopards Basketball team brought the heat this week while competing in the region tournament as the first seed in the region competition. By the end of the week, the Ladies reigned victorious as the Region Champions of the 2023 season and will be advancing to the State tournament.
On Tuesday, the Lady Leopards had to persevere against the East Jackson Eagles after a slow start to the game, but ended up advancing to the championship round with a final score of 50-24. On Thursday, the Ladies fought for the championship title against the Athens Academy Spartans, and with a strong start, they ended the game with a final score of 54-37.
VS EAST JACKSON: 50-24
The Lady Leopards went up against the East Jackson Eagles on Tuesday for their first match in the region competition and won with a final score of 50-24.
The gym was loud with chatter and excitement as the Lady Leopards’ game was about to begin. The Lady Leopards repeated their usual ritual of going under the home bleachers and beating the bottom of the seats, but this time it was loud enough to break the din of people talking and moving around to find a decent seat in the already full house. The enthusiasm was evident on their faces; they were determined to go all the way to the championship game.
However, the East Jackson Eagles seemed to have other plans as they emerged onto the court to face the Lady Leopards as they showcased a new strategy after the tip off.
Carley Segars won the tip off advantage for the Lady Leopards, but it quickly became evident that the first possession of the ball was not going to guarantee their success. After a failed first attempt at the net, the Eagles snatched the ball and headed for the Leopards’ goal, where they scored the first three-pointer of the game. Soon, the Eagles had pulled ahead with 6 points with less than half of the first quarter left.
Kamryn Grier finally gave the team some points on the scoreboard with two successful free throws, and Addison Hoard brought the score to a tie with a two-point shot. By the end of the quarter, the teams were tied 7-7.
The second quarter would prove to be even more challenging as the Eagles slowed the momentum down when they possessed the ball. The Leopards kept up with their pace well, but the Eagles pulled ahead in the second quarter with a score of 12-11.
The frustration on the Leopards’ side was evident, but they would not let that overcome them as they retreated to the locker room to regroup and strategize. They returned to the court with a fire in their eyes and a calmness in their demeanor, and they were ready to take the game back.
The third quarter was difficult, but the adversity of the last two quarters gave the Ladies the perseverance they needed to conquer the Eagles in the third quarter with a small four-point lead of 26-22. Ryleigh Murphy was instrumental in creating a lead for the Leopards after a three-point shot pulled them ahead of the Eagles for the rest of the game.
With a lead established, the Lady Leopards pounced on the Eagles in the fourth, making basket after basket with great efforts from Hoard and Ryleigh Murphy, who scored three three-point baskets in that short span of time.
As the final buzzer sounded, the Leopards were up by 26 points with a final score of 50-24. With that they were guaranteed a spot in the State tournament, but they knew their work wasn’t done yet.
Ryleigh Murphy championed the offensive effort by gaining the most points for the team with 19 total, most of those coming from her five successful attempts at the three-point line. Hoard followed close behind with 14 points, and Segars, Grier, Reese Murphy, Madison Adams, and Valentina Torres also contributed.
The team showcased their defensive prowess during this game with Grier leading the team with a collection of rebounds to turn the game in the Ladies favor. Reese Murphy and Segars were also consistent on defense during the game with rebounds, blocks and steals.
VS ATHENS ACADEMY: 54-37
The Lady Leopards became the 2023 Region 8AA Champions on Thursday after a battle on the court with the Athens Academy Spartans, propelling them into the State Tournament.
The game on Thursday started much like the game on Tuesday, with a bustle of people trying to find their seats and fans of the team talking with excitement. The student section began to fill up, this time with members of the Leopards Basketball team there to cheer their sister team on.
The Lady Leopards huddled around, this time with more excitement than ever before, knowing that they could conquer this opponent after their tough match against the Eagles a couple of days before.
Before their match against the Spartans, three Leopards were honored for their astounding performance on the court. Juniors Addison Hoard and Carley Segars were recognized for their performance during the season, and Senior Kamryn Grier was awarded Player of the Year. Coach Steven Shedd was also honored as the co-recipient of the Coach of the Year award.
The tipoff was once again won by Carley Segars, and the game began with a bang for the Lady Leopards as they pulled ahead of the Spartans in the first quarter with 18-8. The team would go on to outscore the Spartans again in the second quarter with 29-17. After the buzzer sounded to signal halftime, the Lady Leopards left the gym with faces red from the exertion, but they knew that the job of winning the region title was almost done.
For the remainder of the game, the Lady Leopards kept the Spartans to a 10-point minimum scored as they pulled ahead. They ended the third quarter with 43-27 as the crowd began to get more and more excited.
In the fourth quarter, it seemed that the Spartans were going to gain on the Lady Leopards heels. The Athens Academy crowd began to go wild as the Spartans gained a small rush in points, but Banks County fans attempted to drown them out with a deafening roar of “Defense!” spreading out from the student section. The support from their fans gave the girls the boost they needed to widen the gap in points before the final buzzer sounded, ending the game in the Lady Leopards favor with a final score of 54-37.
After all their hard work during the season, they became Region Champions. They crowded around Coach Steven Shedd after the game, hugged one another, and gathered around for pictures as some post-game celebration dance moves, courtesy of Addison Hoard and Coach Shedd.
Ryleigh Murphy once again returned to the court and led her teammates in the offensive effort, gaining 22 points total. Hoard also followed close behind again with 14 points, and Reese Murphy, Madison Adams, Valentina Torres, Segars, and Grier contributed.
On defense, Hoard shone in the first quarter with rebounds and steals, along with Segars, Grier, and Torres. In the second quarter, Grier took the helm with rebounds and steals.
The Lady Leopards have advanced to the State Tournament, and will be going against the North Murray Mountaineers on Tuesday, Feb. 21 at home at 6:00 p.m.
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