Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local Sports

March 1, 2014

Lady Raiders smother Westminster with strong defense in first round victory

MACON — Last week in Albany, the Southland Academy Lady Raiders left the court at Darton College with a second place trophy from the Region 3-AAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. With just four days between the region championship game and the opening round of the Class AAA State Playoffs, the Lady Raiders needed a quick turnaround, and they got it with a crucial five-point win over Westminster at Tattnall Square Academy on Wednesday night.

As the number two seed from Region 3, Southland was paired against the Westminster School Lady Wildcats, who finished as the number three seed in Region 4. The Lady Wildcats brought a good mixture of speed and size into the match-up, but in the early stages of the game the Lady Raiders proved that they were more than prepared for Westminster’s attack.

Senior guard Dallas NeSmith started her team off with a big three-pointer, and from there the Lady Raiders went on to outscore Westminster 11-6 in the opening period.

Southland began to relax some in the second period, however, and by the time the halftime break arrived the Lady Wildcats had stormed back to take a 16-13 lead thanks to a 10-2 run.

The Lady Raiders knew that their defense was capable of slowing the Lady Wildcats’ attack, so the main goal of Coach Paula McDonald at the break was to get her team to settle down. That strategy brought a big return in the third period as Southland stormed back to outscore Westminster 10-6 and take a one point lead into the final frame.

With the game on the line, McDonald gave senior leader Mary Melissa Roland the task of double-teaming Lady Wildcat center Amber Davis to slow down the Westminster post play. The decision to double-team Davis also paid big dividends in the fourth period as the Lady Wildcats middle player was held scoreless, allowing Southland to win the game at the free throw line. From the charity stripe, Ella Hawkins sank five of her seven attempts, and Chris Shattles and Roland also added foul shots to ice the game 35-30 and send the Lady Raiders into the quarterfinals.

“Our kids rotated well and we stayed fresh for the stretch in the fourth quarter,” McDonald said. “Everyone gave 100 percent and we were united in our goal. Eventually, the game was won on the free throw line.”

Hawkins tied for the lead in scoring with 11 points, and she also had four crucial steals. Roland also completed a huge night with a double-double that consisted of 11 points and 10 rebounds.

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