E.A. Sports Today

Wellborn’s secret weapon delivers

Freshman guard just promoted from the junior high team plays big role as Lady Panthers down Piedmont in area tournament semifinals

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – The book on playing the Wellborn girls basketball team this year has been use whatever means necessary to contain Vanessa Carter and Ayanna Foster and you’ll have a pretty good chance to succeed.

Lady Panthers coach Shanese Morgan knows that book, too, and Tuesday night she pulled out a hidden weapon that upset even the best laid of those plans.

Morgan promoted Itiania Weatherly from the junior high team late last week and inserted her in the lineup in only the biggest game of the year. The freshman responded by scoring the first seven points of the second quarter.

It was part of a larger 11-0 run that gave the Lady Panthers a lead they’d never lose in an eventual 48-41 victory over Piedmont in the Class 3A Area 12 girls tournament semifinals at Pleasant Valley.

“I’ve been working with 20,” Morgan said. “I’ve been with this group of girls since they were in seventh grade. I left her down on junior high because she was a forward last year and I needed her to pick up guard skills, and that’s what she did.

“I told her to prove herself to me on junior high and I would bring her up. She proved it to me. She did a wonderful job, she earned that guard spot and she is what we’ve needed.”

Morgan called her up for last Thursday’s game at Faith Christian, but Weatherly rode the bench all game while soaking in all that it means to be varsity. She might not have known all the plays when she finally got on the big stage Tuesday, but she was ready to play.

After her second-quarter outburst, Weatherly later added the middle two points in a 6-0 run that gave the Lady Panthers an eight-point lead early in the fourth quarter.

In assessing her varsity debut Weatherly said, “I was impressed because I do not know any of those plays and they just clicked.”

Piedmont coach Terrace Ridley said she had no point of reference on the Wellborn freshman, but she also said the Lady Bulldogs’ lack of backside defensive help would have given anyone in that position a chance to shine.

“We’re guarding 3 (Vanessa Carter) and 11 (Katessa Carter) and my backside person knows that whoever that backside guard is you’ve gotta go out and show help and we didn’t,” Ridley said. “Whoever it was we should’ve had help and we didn’t.”

Even with all the extra attention Vanessa Carter and Foster took over in the second half. Carter scored 11 of her 16 points in the final two quarters, while Foster scored all nine of hers in the half. Piedmont closed to 44-41 with 21.2 seconds to play, but Carter hit four free throws in the final 20 seconds to ice it.

The Lady Bulldogs were close so many times in the game. They fought back from an early eight-point deficit to tie the game at 26 in the third quarter on two baskets by Kaitlyn Ridley and a Lulu Jackson putback, but then Wellborn scored the next six points and remained in front the rest of the game.

In fact, every time Piedmont closed the gap, the Lady Panthers found a way to pull away.

“When we got it tied all I asked them to do was try to get a couple steals off defense and get in transition and get a layup or something,” Ridley said. “I told them if we could have ever gotten on top we would’ve been OK, but we just couldn’t get through and get the shots to get on top.”

With the win, Wellborn is guaranteed at least two more games in its season. The Lady Panthers play host Pleasant Valley for the area championship 7 p.m. Friday, and those teams play either Westbrook Christian or Ohatchee in Monday’s crossover for a spot in to the regionals.


Wellborn 48, Piedmont 41

WELLBORN – Vanessa Carter 4 8-10 16, Anaya Lowe 0 0-0 0, Madison Files 0 0-0 0, Katessa Carter 1 4-6 6, Ayanna Foster 2 5-6 9, Itiania Weatherly 4 1-3 9, Allyah Thrasher 2 0-0 6, Markeisha Jones 1 0-0 2. Totals 14 18-25 48.

PIEDMONT – Jakieya Mitchell 0 0-4 0, Samirra Braswell 0 2-5 2, Brooke Perry 3 2-3 9, Keshauna Jones 1 4-7 6. Kaitlyn Ridley 8 0-0 16, Lulu Jackson 2 0-0 4, Madison Tyree 0 0-0 0, Rebecca Smart 1 3-6 5. Totals 15 11-21 41.

Wellborn 12 6 12 11 — 41
Piedmont 13 11 9 16 — 48

3-point goals: Thrasher 2. Fouled out: Foster. Total fouls: Piedmont 19, Wellborn 21. Officials: Hollingsworth, Pratt, Kelley.

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