By Chris McCarthy/Editor
A potent perimeter game and solid production under the boards propelled Hokes Bluff to 54-34 victory over Glencoe in the Etowah County Schools girls basketball tournament semifinals on Thursday (Jan. 19) at GHS.
The Class 4A No. 5 Lady Eagles (17-4) knocked down seven 3-point baskets – including four by senior guard Tylynn Register – and consistently out-rebounded Lady Yellow Jackets. Hokes Bluff maintained a double-digit lead for the final three quarters, and the hosts never got within 14 points in the second half.
In a rematch of last year’s county tournament final, the No. 3 seed and defending champion Lady Eagles will face No. 1 seed Southside on Friday (Jan. 20).
Hokes Bluff head coach Jason Shields pointed to the stellar board work of his three seniors as a major factor in the win.
“Sydney [Ball] had 12 rebounds, Kendall [Johnson] had seven and Tylynn had seven. When [Glencoe] beat is earlier in the year, we had three balls hit the floor late in the game, and [Glencoe] got them and wound up scoring. So we did a much better job with that tonight. We also didn’t turn the ball over very much.”
The Lady Yellow had difficulty driving the lane, especially in the first half, which Shields attributed to his team’s quick rotation on defense.
“We did a good job in protecting the gaps and consistently making [Glencoe] work for their shots and limiting them to one-shot possessions. That’s key, especially if you’re not having a good might offensively.”
Register finished with 16 points, 14 of them coming over the final six minutes. Amanda Noah scored with 15, followed by Johnson with 10 and Ball with six.
Anna Beth Giles paced Glencoe (11-9) with 10 points, followed by Lauren Cole with seven and Cami Zahorscak with six.
Zahorscak’s three-pointer 40 seconds into the second half drew the Lady Yellow Jackets within 33-19, providing the Glencoe faithful with a glimmer of hope.
Those hopes were quickly extinguished when Register nailed a trey on each of the next three Hokes Bluff possessions. Her sharpshooting stretched the visitor’s advantage to 23 points, and effectively put the game out of reach.
“When Tylynn got hot, we were able to find her,” said Shields. “When someone gets into a rhythm, you feed her the ball as much as possible.”
The closest that Glencoe got for the entire game was when Cole’s basket tied the score at 2-2 in the early going. Hokes Bluff responded with a 12-0 run that gave the visitors a 14-2 lead after one quarter.
The pace slowed a bit in the second frame, but four points from Noah helped the Lady Eagles enter the break ahead 21-8.
A 10-2 Hokes Bluff run at the start of the third quarter increased the advantage to 31-10. The Lady Yellow Jackets answered with their strongest showing of the night with a 6-2 stretch, but the visitors still had a comfortable lead at 33-16 entering the final eight minutes.
“We’re a young team that got taught a lesson tonight,” said Glencoe head coach Daniel Cook. “Hokes Bluff is very physical on defense and really cuts off the passing lanes, which made it hard for us to score. I can see [Hokes Bluff] making a pretty good run in the playoffs. Our girls played hard, and hopefully we can learn from tonight and be better over the last few weeks of the season.”
Shields is well aware that his team must keep their offensive mistakes to a minimum against the Lady Panthers.
“[Southside] is very good at turning turnovers into points. They usually get a lot of easy buckets in transition, and we don’t. They’ve got speed and a lot of reach, and the five [substitutes] they run in are pretty much the same [as the starters]. We also need to get quality possessions on offense. We just hope that we keep it close enough that we have a chance down the stretch.”