|Wed, Apr 23, 2014 05:18 AM
February 19, 2014 | 01:47 PM
For the eighth consecutive year, South Central and New Washington locked horns within the Class A Sectional.
Traditionally two of the stronger teams, the Lady Mustangs evened the mark of the last eight meetings at 4-4 with a 41-35 victory over South Central in the New Washington Sectional last Tuesday.
"Defensively, I thought we played well and did what we needed to do on that end," South Central coach Randall Schoen said. "We have struggled offensively to put points up. It was one of those nights again (of) not shooting the ball well. We've been like that all year."
Five days prior, New Washington won the regular season game, 48-37. This time around, there was a bit more emotion on the court. As the game went along, the opposing student sections yelled and screamed in another tight match-up between the rivals from the Southern Athletic Conference.
At the end of each quarter, one point was the difference between teams.
Heading into the finale, the Lady Mustangs led 24-23. They saw that lead balloon to 27-23 with a 3-pointer by Courtney Amick off of an inbounds play.
Exiting a timeout, South Central went the direction of senior standout Kelsey Miller. All 12 points by the Lady Rebels in the final quarter came from the program's latest 1,000-point scorer.
Going on a 6-0 run, Miller helped South Central grab a 29-27 lead with five minutes to play. She scored a bucket inside, converted a steal into two then sank a pair of freebies. Miller finished with 25 points and seven rebounds.
"We needed her to probably attack a little more in the third quarter," Schoen said. "When she attacked the rim, they didn't have anybody to stop her. She got going with it to get us going."
Clawing back, the Lady Mustangs knotted the game with a Brooke Abbott field goal. That was followed by New Washington's Ashley Johnson knifing through traffic to hit a shot. The host grew its lead to 35-29 with 1:49 to play when Johnson put in another bucket after the Lady Rebels misfired on a fast-break attempt.
Miller cut New Washington's lead to four on two different occasions, but the Lady Rebels couldn't return the scoreboard to a one-possession game.
Finishing off games is something the South Central team struggled with against a brutal schedule among Class A teams.
"I look back, and I can pick out five games we were leading in the fourth quarter and some in the last minute or two that we wound up losing," Schoen said. "If we could have held on to those, it would put us at 12 wins."
In the early going, Schoen believed his squad had the advantage. The Lady Rebels were throwing to the post to get 5-foot-10 center Chelsey Kaiser involved versus a smaller Lady Mustangs front court. Putting in two buckets early, Kaiser and company saw the first quarter close, tied at 8.
"I felt like, if we were going to make a move, it was going to be in the first quarter," Schoen said. "We had things going our way, going to Kaiser, but we quit looking for it."
South Central led through much of the second quarter, but a late triple by Emilee Holloway gave New Washington a 15-14 lead at the half.
New Washington would lead 24-17 midway through the third quarter, but the feisty Lady Rebels didn't back down. Sabra Walker hit a pair of jumpers, along with a Walker steal that set up a Miller basket. The 6-0 spurt brought the Lady Rebels within one, 24-23, heading into the final eight minutes.
"For us, you can't expect one kid to do everything," Schoen said. "Sabra knocked a few shots down despite being off with her shot the last several games. She's only a sophomore that will hopefully learn from it and work this summer to improve her game."
Going into the game, Schoen figured scoring in transition and in the post while in the half court would aid his team. At times, South Central was helter-skelter with the offense.
"I said there would be a night they all would click, but it never came," Schoen said. "There was one or two at the most, but that was it."
Four Lady Rebels players reached the score book. Outside of Miller's 25, Walker and Kaiser had four points each while Jasmine Nalley had two.
New Washington put two in double figures with Amick (15 points) and Johnson (10).
The Lady Rebels graduate six seniors: Maddie O'Connor, Alexis Mitcham, Victoria Sallee, Savannah Milliner, Sandy Wagner and Miller. Schoen said it was an emotional group in the locker.
"I told the girls that, if this is the worse thing that happens to you, you are going to be pretty successful," he said. "I've sat in this locker room several times. I have two assistant coaches that sat in here when it was over. It's hard."
Schoen credited the seniors for sticking with the program that won seven games this year and eight the year before.
"This group of seniors has been good," Schoen said. "They came into the program when we were really hurting for numbers. They stuck with it. There were a couple that didn't get to play very much, and I know it gets frustrating but they came in and as it went on they stuck with it. The main thing is they aren't quitters."
South Central 8 6 9 12 – 35
New Washington 8 7 9 17 – 41
South Central (7-15) – Miller 25, Walker 4, Kaiser 4, Nalley 2.
New Washington (11-8) – Amick 15, Johnson 10, James 4, Haymaker 4, Abbott 4, Holloway 4.
3-point goals – South Central 1 (Miller); New Washington 3 (Amick 2, Holloway).