E.A. Sports Today

Lady Cubs prove point

Alexandria upends the seedings, builds big lead on fourth-seeded Piedmont then holds on to earn a spot in girls semifinals

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — Alexandria came into its Calhoun County Tournament girls quarterfinals game Wednesday night looking to prove a point. The Lady Cubs did, but it almost left guard Jordyn Walker to wonder if she hadn’t written a check with her words that her buddies couldn’t cash.

After their win over Saks Monday night, Walker talked about how the Lady Cubs were a little taken aback by drawing a No. 5 tournament seed to Piedmont’s 4, that she confidently but not maliciously said hers was the better team and it would take the opportunity to show it when the teams played Wednesday.

Her prediction seemed spot on when the Lady Cubs took a 14-point lead into the fourth quarter, but with less than two minutes to play that margin was down to one. But just as it did at the end of the first half, Alexandria rose up at the end and pulled off a 48-41 victory.

The Lady Cubs will play top-seeded Oxford in Thursday’s 6 p.m. semifinal. They’ll be looking to reach the finals for the fifth time in school history and first time since 1996. The Lady Cubs have never won the county tournament.

“I knew it was going to be very, very tough going against them, especially in the first quarter because we were kind of playing slow,” Walker said. “I knew we just needed to go out there and play how we usually play, get back and play solid defense and not get in foul trouble (and) we would have the game.

“I’m very, very happy we went out there and won because I told them after I said that to you we’ve got to win this. I told him we were going to win, we’re the better team, but I believed it, too, though.”

Lady Cubs coach Craig Kiker speculated the seeding slight may have provided some motivation for his team to play hard, but discounted any potential bulletin board material influencing the outcome. He was more worried about his team not throwing the ball around and getting rebounds than being concerned with that “outside stuff.”

Neither team generated much offense in the first half, but Alexandria broke away from a 19-19 tie with five points in the final 15 seconds to take the halftime lead. It may have been the most important 15 seconds of the game as far as the Lady Cubs were concerned. Kailey Dickerson broke the tie with a basket, then Walker followed with a steal, layup and one.

The Lady Cubs never trailed again.

“That was huge because they were sitting in a zone and wanted to slow the game down and we wanted to speed the game up,” Kiker said. “I thought us getting those turnovers and layups right before the half was huge because now we understand what I’m trying to say. We want to pressure the ball on defense and try to get turnovers and create some offense.”

After Piedmont opened the second-half scoring on a three-point play by Ava Pope, the Lady Cubs went on a 15-3 run to take a 39-25 lead. It looked like the Lady Cubs were going to cruise into the semifinals, but then, as Kiker put it, “we almost lost our mind,” turning it over and taking bad shots. It helped the Lady Bulldogs cut the deficit to 41-40 with 1:55 to play.

The Lady Cubs regained their footing, got a bucket from Jill Cockrell and hit five of six free throws down the stretch to close it out.

“I was really nervous because I was like, ‘Oh my gosh this may be my last county game,’ we’ve got to win this and I wanted it for my team because we just came off a long streak of losing, so I wanted us to get our momentum back up and believe in ourselves that we can win,” Walker said.

Walker led all scorers with 19 points. Cockrell finished with tee. Ava Pope led Piedmont with 16 points, but the defense freshman Charlee Parris played on her was a key to the game, Kiker said.

“I just play solid defense, not get in foul trouble, and just try to get in their heads that she’s not going to do what she needs to do at this place,” Parris said. “I feel like I did all right.”

As for any future predictions she might share down the road, Walker said he’d probably refrain.

“I was at home thinking should I have said that,” she said. “Then I went to school and teachers were telling me about it. I was like, ‘Did I say something bad?’

ALEXANDRIA – Jordyn Walker 5 6-7 19, Kirsten Heathcock 0 1-2 1, Jill Cockrell 4 0-0 10, Cassidy Hartsfield 1 0-0 3, Charlee Parris 2 2-3 7, Kailey Dickerson 1 2-3 4, Sumira Duncan 0 0-0 0, Alyssa Hunt 2 0-0 4. Totals 15 11-15 48.
PIEDMONT – Ava Pope 4 5-5 16, Jaycee Glover 1 4-6 6, Lele Ridley 1 8-16 10, Melanie Studdard 1 4-4 6, Carson Young 0 0-0 0, Gracie Naugher 1 0-0 3, Morgan Studdard 0 0-0 0. Totals 8 21-31 41.
Alexandria     14        10        15        9 –       48
Piedmont        8          11        6          16 –     41
3-point goals: Alexandria 7 (Walker 3, Cockrell 2, Parris, Hartsfield); Piedmont 4 (Pope 3, Naugher). Rebounds: Alexandria 26 (Walker 8, Dickerson 6); Piedmont (M. Studdard 7, Ridley 9). Fouled out: Glover. Total fouls: Alexandria 22, Piedmont 15.

Alexandria’s Charlee Parris (10) put in an all-out effort to limit Piedmont shooter Ava Pope. Alexandria coach Will Ginn said Parris’ defensive effort against Pope was a key to victory. (Photo by Greg Warren).

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