Photo: Coosa Christian’s Claire Davidson (left) protects he ball from Appalachian’s Cassady Cornelius during the Lady Conquerors’ 58-43 victory in the Class 1A, Area 11 Tournament championship game on Wednesday (Feb. 7) in Gadsden. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy/PublisherEditor
Coosa Christian weathered a few tense moments in the second half last Wednesday (Feb. 7) in Gadsden, but the Lady Conquerors ultimately put away a pesky Appalachian squad, 58-43, to win their second straight Class 1A, Area 11 Tournament championship.
The hosts built a 27-14 halftime lead on the strength of solid perimeter play, as the Lady Conquerors knocked down five 3-point baskets in the first half. But center India Brown got in early foul trouble and Coosa had trouble getting the ball inside, and the Lady Eagles began chipping away in third quarter.
After consecutive three-pointers from Claire Davidson and Ryleigh Waid provided the hosts with a 16-point lead midway through the period, the visitors went to a full-court press on defense.
The strategy worked, as three straight Coosa turnovers paved the way for a 9-2 Eagle run that drew Appalachian within single digits at 39-30.
Three foul shots by Davidson in the quarter’s final minute restored the Lady Conquerors’ double-digit advantage at 42-31 heading into the final period.
“We knew [Appalachian] was going to turn up the intensity in the second half, and they did,” said Coosa head coach Jayme Hollingsworth. “But we figured out a way to keep our composure, and it worked out for us in the long run.”
Phoebe Wallace’s basket at 6:50 of the fourth quarter cut the deficit to nine points, but that was the last time the Lady Eagles would be within single digits. A three-pointer from Ashton Mills and Davidson’s steal and resulting layup helped push the lead to 14 points with 3:45 left in the game.
By that time the hosts were in the bonus free throw situation, and Brown and Davidson combined to go 5-for-6 at the charity stripe over the final minute to put the game out of reach.
“Taking away our inside game was absolutely their game plan,” said Hollingsworth. “They did a really good job of double and triple-teaming India, but our guards stepped up with several 3’s that helped keep us ahead. We had a freshman point guard [Waid] that guarded their best player the whole game, and she did a great job. She fought through and got the ball where it needed to be.”
Davidson, who was named Tournament MVP, finished with 17 points, followed by Brown with 10. Waid and Mills each scored eight points, while Payton West added six.
“Scoring’s in Claire’s DNA, and that’s something that we have to have every night,” said Hollingsworth. “She brought again tonight.”
Coosa was fast out of the gate, as respective three-pointers from Mills, Davidson and Kalee Hasley steered the Lady Conquerors to a 17-6 lead after one quarter. The hosts held Appalachian to three field goals in the second period on the way to a 13-point lead at intermission.
Wallace paced the Lady Eagles with 23 points, while Aleigha Wilson added 13.
Brown, Waid and West joined Davidson on the all-tournament team.
Coosa (21-9) will face the winner of Friday’s Cedar Bluff/Skyline area winner in the subregional round on Monday, Feb. 12.
“We played [Appalachian] six times in the past two years, and we knew they were not going to go away,” said Hollingsworth. “We made history last year with our first [area title], and it’s an honor and a privilege to win back to back [area championships]. We just have to keep building form here on out.