Mitchell takes over in second half, leads Lady Raiders to victory

Published 11:33 pm Friday, February 17, 2023

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AMERICUS – After a sluggish first half which saw the Southland Lady Raiders (SAR) own an 18-13 halftime lead, SAR senior point guard Riley Mitchell had seen enough and took over in the third quarter. Mitchell led the Lady Raiders by scoring nine points as part of an 11-1 run and SAR grabbed a hold of the contest from there on out on their way to a 42-29 victory over Terrell Academy (TA) in the third place game of the GIAA Region 3-AAA Tournament at the Storm Dome on Friday, February 17.

While Mitchell showed the leadership that great players show in leading their teams to victory, SAR head coach Eric Israel was quick to point out that with the Lady Raiders, it always starts with defense.

“Our defense kept us in it early, but in that second half, Riley really just took over the game,” SAR head coach Eric Israel said. “She put the team on her back and got us to victory.”

Mitchell led all scorers with 25 points, but those nine points she scored in that 11-1 run by the Lady Raiders in the third quarter proved to be the turning point of the game and led to a decisive win for SAR.

In addition to Mitchell’s performance, senior guards J.C. Bailey and Morgan Weaver each scored six points, junior forward Mary Beth Easterlin scored three points and senior forward Lauren Duke had two in the winning cause.

During the first quarter, it was a low-scoring, defensive struggle between both teams, with the Lady Raiders leading 8-7 by the end of the quarter.

Southland Academy senior guard J.C. Bailey scored six points in the Lady Raiders’ win over Terrell Academy.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

With a little under seven minutes left in the second quarter, TA’s Liza West drilled a three-pointer to give the Lady Eagles a 10-8 lead. During this period of the game, the Lady Raiders were struggling to make shots, but Mary Beth Easterlin was able to drain a three-pointer and the Lady Raiders were back in front 11-10.

However, SAR was still struggling in their offensive sets against the half court defense of the Lady Eagles. Fortunately for the Lady Raiders, TA was struggling to make shots as well.

After a timeout called by Israel, Mitchell drilled a three-pointer to give SAR a 14-11 lead, but West came back for TA with a basket of her own to cut the SAR lead to one. However, with 45 seconds to go in the half, Mitchell hit a three-pointer that rolled around the rim and in to give the Lady Raiders an 18-13 lead at halftime.

Southland Academy senior guard Morgan Weaver scored six points in SAR’s 42-29 victory over Terrell Academy in the third place game of the GIAA Region 3-AAA girls’ tournament.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

To sum up the first half, it was a half in which both teams were strong defensively, but neither team could put the ball in the basket consistently. The Lady Raiders really struggled from beyond the arc in the first half, as they only made 3 of 15 three-pointers. As for TA, the Lady Eagles went 2 for 5 from beyond the arc.

Mitchell scored eight of her game-leading 25 points in the first half to lead SAR in first half scoring.

Over the first couple of minutes of the third quarter, things did not change much, as both teams continued to struggle offensively. However, the Lady Raiders were able to take a 20-14 lead on two made foul shots by Mitchell. This was the beginning of Mitchell’s scoring spree and the beginning of the end for the Lady Eagles.

While their offense was struggling, the SAR defense was solid and forced turnovers. This enabled the Lady Raiders to keep their lead and they extended it to nine on another three-pointer by Mitchell with 4:17 left in the third quarter. A little over a minute later, Morgan Weaver was fouled in the act of shooting and made both free throws to give SAR had a 25-14 lead before timeout was called with 3:01 left in the third quarter.

Shortly thereafter, Mitchell scored again on a layup and the Lady Raiders had a 27-14 lead and she would later sink two more foul shots to increase that lead. This was all part of that 11-1 run by SAR that was spearheaded by Mitchell.

Southland Academy sophomore guard Ila Johnson competes for the Lady Raiders against Terrell Academy.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

While the Lady Raiders were pulling away offensively, they continued to stifle the Lady Eagles’ offense with their half court defense and limited TA to just three points in the third quarter. Just as the buzzer was about to sound to end the quarter, J.C. Bailey drilled a three-pointer to give SAR a 32-16 lead with the fourth quarter still to play.

With 6:18 to go in the game, Sally Masters drained a two-point shot for TA, but Bailey struck again with a three-pointer and the Lady Raiders had a comfortable 37-18 lead. At this point, Mitchell and her teammates were in total control, as she would score on the dribble drive, get fouled and convert the foul shot for the three-point play, increasing the SAR lead to 40-18.

The Lady Eagles were able to make a very late 9-2 run in the closing minutes, but the outcome had already been determined, as the Lady Raiders went on to win by the score of 42-29.

Sally Masters led TA (15-13) in scoring with nine points and Liza West had seven in the losing cause.

The Lady Raiders (22-4) will now await their opponent in the first round of the upcoming GIAA Class AAA State Tournament. Stay tuned to for further updates.