E.A. Sports Today

Game of inches

Girls roundup: Piedmont comes up short in emotional tournament semifinals; Spring Garden regains intensity after halftime

Tuesday’s girls scores
Heflin Holiday Hoops Tournament
Spring Garden 69, Ranburne 49
Oxford 61, Hokes Bluff 41
Heard County (Ga.) 64, Cleburne County 32

Hilburn-Patterson Haralson County (Ga.) Invitational
East Paulding 52, LaGrange 24
Cedartown 50, Bremen 46
Haralson County 32, Piedmont 31

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

TALLAPOOSA, Ga. – Lele Ridley came within inches of sending Piedmont into overtime in their semifinal game with host Haralson County but was just inches inside the line when she let her deep jumper fly and the Lady Bulldogs came up one point short.

The Lady Bulldogs rallied from 12 down with 2:30 to play and came within inches of forcing overtime but fell to the Lady Rebels 32-31.

Ridley took her shot with two seconds left and it was pure, but the officials ruled one foot was not completely behind the arc and counted it as a 2 instead of a game-tying 3.

“She knew exactly what she was doing, she just didn’t get back far enough,” Piedmont coach Terrace Ridley said. “If she steps back with the left foot it’s a 3 all day long.”

And the teams keep playing. Instead, Haralson County goes into Wednesday night’s 6 p.m. (ET) title game against Cedartown, while Piedmont will play Bremen for third place at 3.

Ridley led Piedmont with 12 points, with eight coming in the fourth quarter. Ava Pope scored eight points with a basket and a three-point play during the Lady Bulldogs’ fourth-quarter comeback.

“These girls don’t give up,” Terrace Ridley said. “They’re going to fight all the way to when the buzzer says 0:00 in the fourth quarter.”

Ridley called it “one of the best defensive games we’ve played all season,” but she couldn’t say the same for the offense. Haralson County gave the Lady Bulldogs “every look we wanted,” but they just didn’t capitalize, missing numerous open shots close around the basket, especially early.

It was an emotional game. The Lady Bulldogs played after learning of the sudden passing of one of their classmates, Kailey Hunt. The news was particular hard on junior players Emily Farmer, Z’Hayla Walker and Armoni Perry, but they all played significant roles in the game.

“They fought their hearts and guts out tonight,” Ridley said. “It took a lot for them to still keep their composure and go out and put up a good fight. I told them how proud I was of them for that. They did everything they possibly could do to pull that game out.”

As if that weren’t a difficult situation enough, sometime during the second quarter they learned their boys basketball teams were shutting down until Jan. 12 due to COVID-19 within the program. The decision affects the boys varsity and B teams, but not the girls teams. Ridley said her team will play in Wednesday’s consolation game here and would continue to play through the boys’ quarantine period if their opponents would agree to play what would amount to a single-game date.

“It is what it is,” Ridley said. “My girls are playing so good right now I don’t want to stop.”

Haralson County 32, Piedmont 31
Ava Pope 3 1-3 8, Jaycee Glover 0 2-2 2, Lele Ridley 5 1-2 12, Armoni Perry 0 0-0 0, Gracie Naugher 0 0-2 0, Z’Hayla Walker 3 1-2 7, Emily Farmer 1 0-0 2. Totals 12 5-11 31.
HARALSON COUNTY – Lauren Bridges 2 2-3 6, Chloe Hyatt 2 0-0 6, Sara Kate Dobson 0 0-0 0, Katherine Bridges 2 4-4 8, Rylie Harrell 1 1-2 3, Morgan Martin 3 2-2 9, Mallory Garner 0 0-0 0. Totals 10 9-11 32.
Piedmont                                5   6    4    16  –   31
Haralson County                   9    8    6    9    –   32
3-point goals: Piedmont 2 (Pope, Ridley); Haralson County 3 (Hyatt 2, Martin). Total fouls: Piedmont 13, Haralson County 8.

Heflin Holiday Hoops

Lady Panthers respond

HEFLIN — Ace Austin is so tuned into her father’s basketball mindset she usually has a good idea of what he’s going to say in a given situation before he even starts talking.

So, when the Spring Garden girls basketball team lost its way a little defensively after building a big first-quarter lead, the Lady Panthers’ guard knew exactly what Coach Dad was going to say at halftime and got her teammates ready for it as they walked down the steps to talk about it.

Coach Ricky Austin had been a little concerned with his team’s play after getting some big early leads in recent games and let the Lady Panthers know it at halftime.

They responded the way he expected in the second half and they went on to put away Ranburne 69-49 on the second day of the Heflin Holiday Hoops Tournament.

Garden’s defense in the first quarter sparked a 25-2 run over the final five minutes that produced a 32-8 lead. But the script flipped in the second quarter and Ranburne got it back within 11 at the break.

“I thought we had some bad defensive effort in the second quarter, I wasn’t real pleased with that, so we talked about that a little bit at halftime,” Ricky Austin sad. “I thought we came out in the third quarter with a little bit more defensive fire.

“Last night we got a big lead in the first half and got a little sloppy in the second half and tonight we got a big lead in the first quarter and I thought we got sloppy in the second. We need to harp on them about their defense because it’s not where it needs to be right now. It’s too early in the season to just be satisfied and we’ve got to get better defensively.”

Ace knew what was coming. She was the last player to come down the steps and Ricky heard her imploring her teammates to step it up, that they weren’t meeting the Spring Garden standard.

“I knew he was going to say something about it so I went ahead before he said it,” she said. “We were not playing real good so we just needed someone to say something to help us pick it up.”

The halftime discussion registered with Ace in another way. She became more aggressive attacking the basket and scored 17 of her game-high 23 points in the third quarter as the Lady Panthers pushed their lead back to 29. She started the stretch with 10 straight points for her team, then she forced Ranburne into turnovers on three on its next four possessions.

“We count on her to score, but we also count on her to be a playmaker for other players,” Ricky Austin said. “But we’re better when we can defend well and get steals and rebounds and then get it in her hands and let her be a playmaker for herself and other people. Obviously, the defense wasn’t there in the second quarter for that kind of stuff to happen, but we got better in the third quarter. I was glad to see them change their second-quarter tendencies.”

Neely Welch scored all 12 of her points in the first quarter. Lexy Adkison had 15 in the game.

Kayli Olds and Briley Merrill scored 11 each for Ranburne, which drew a tip of the hat from Austin for battling after falling behind big early.

Spring Garden 69, Ranburne 49
Ace Austin 9 3-3 23, Abbie Woods 0 0-0 0, Bri Boles 2 0-0 5, Sarah Kate McKay 1 3-4 6, Avery Steward 0 0-0 0, Lexy Adkison 7 1-2 15, Neely Welsh 4 3-3 12, Olivia Law 1 0-0 2, Maggie Reedy 0 0-0 0, Abbey Steward 1 0-0 2, Maggie Jarrett 1 2-2 4, Morgan Brown 0 0-0 0. Totals 26 12-14 69.
RANBURNE – Briley Merrill 5 0-0 11, Julianna Merrill 4 2-4 10, Kayli Olds 5 1-1 11, Abigail Howle 2 1-2 7, Natalie Merrill 2 0-0 5, Auburn Rollins 1 0-0 2, Crimson Rollins 1 0-0 3. Totals 20 4-7 49.
Spring Garden     32   7    26   4   –   69
Ranburne              8     18  12   11 –  49
3-point goals: Spring Garden 5 (Austin 2, Boles, McKay, Welsh); Ranburne 5 (B. Merrill, Howle 2, N. Merrill, Rollins). Total fouls: Spring Garden 8, Ranburne 12. Officials: Lackey, Taylor, McElreeth.

Oxford 61, Hokes Bluff 41
Charly Robinson 0 0-0 0, Madi Wolfe 0 4-6 4, Maddie Smith 1 0-0 2, Halle Davenport 0 0-0 0, Bailee Latronico 2 3-6 7, HaleyKate Wellingham 0 0-0 0, Kileigh Blackwell 7 3-6 17, Chloe Rule 5 1-2 11. Totals 15 11-20 41.
OXFORD – Justice Woods 1 3-4 5, Xai Whitfield 3 1-1 7, Lauren Ellard 4 0-0 8, LaMya McGrue 5 2-4 12, Kaleah Taylor 4 0-0 8, Emma McCullough 2 0-0 6, Lisa Montgomery 2 2-2 6, Keziah Mickler 1 0-2 2, Aniya Elston 0 0-0 0, Jamea Gaston 1 3-4 5, Mikiya Wilson 1 0-0 2. Totals 24 11-17 61.
Hokes Bluff            10   8   8    15   –   41
Oxford                     14   16 16  15   –  61
3-point goals: Oxford 2 (McCullough 2). Total fouls: Hokes Bluff 13, Oxford 19. Officials: Burroughs, Wood, Winn.

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