By Joshua Price/Sports Editor
Etowah High School played inspired basketball against Centerpoint in the semi-final Northeast Regional basketball tournament at Jacksonville State University on Feb. 21, but the Lady Blue Devils fell short to the defending Class 5A state champions, 49-39. Etowah finished the season at 19-12.
Etowah fought the Lady Eagles tooth-and-nail for three quarters before Centerpoint caught fire.
Keonna Farmer’s free throw with 4:13 remaining in the third quarter gave the Lady Eagles the lead for the first time since midway through the second quarter.
Taliah Davis connected on two 3-point shots moments later to extend the Lady Eagles’ lead to five points. Free throws by Dominique Patrick and a basket by Keonna Farmer in the final minute extended Centerpoint’s lead to 31-22 heading into the final frame.
Etowah head coach Ryan Fore noted the importance of Davis’ 3-pointers and their impact on the momentum of the game.
“We knew it was a matter of time before they started knocking down some shots. Taliah [Davis] stepped up and hit two big 3-pointers in the third quarter to stretch the lead out.”
Centerpoint outscored Etowah, 15-5, in the third quarter to take a 31-22 lead heading into the final frame.
“I knew if they were ever able to stretch that lead out it would be hard for us to chip away at it,” Fore added.
Both teams scored more points in the fourth quarter than they did in the first half. Etowah netted 17, while Centerpoint tallied 18.
Centerpoint struggled from the floor in the first half and missed many shots under the goal. The Lady Eagles posted 14.7 percent shooting percentage in the first half. Etowah shot 30 percent to take a 17-16 lead at intermission.
“I told them at halftime we have to come out and execute the same game plan and I think we did,” Etowah head coach Ryan Fore said. “We had a few turnovers that hurt us. We came out and executed our game plan in the second half. Give credit to Centerpoint, they started making their shots.”
The smaller but game Lady Devils faced a major obstacle against the defending champs that they could not overcome – size.
Centerpoint floored three girls who were 5’11 and one who stood at 6’0.
“We knew we were overmatched according to size,” Fore said. “They have two big-time college basketball players and another who is heavily recruited. I think we did a great job against a great basketball team.”
Each team pulled 24 rebounds in the first half. Size took its toll in the second half. Centerpoint out-rebounded Etowah 25-15, including 18-8 on the offensive end.
Bri Aaron led all scorers with 21 points and five rebounds. Shuntara Howard netted 10 points for Etowah, while Brooke Perry pulled seven rebounds.
Gabrielle Holston led Centerpoint with 16 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. Dominique Patrick scored 12, while Farmer and Davis added 11 and 10 respectively. Farmer pulled 10 boards.
“Etowah played very well,” said Centerpoint head coach Ulysses Haynes. “They were more athletic than what I saw on film. They attacked the basket very well, too. I think we underestimated their ability early in the game, but we adjusted our defenses a little bit and that made a big difference for us.”
This year marked the first time an Etowah girls team made it to the regional tournament The Lady Devils posted a 14-2 home record in 2011-12.
“Our school, players and community were excited because this was the first time [Etowah girls] had ever been to a regional tournament,” said Fore. “We came out in the first half with great intensity. Great leadership out of our seniors.”
Fore was proud of the support from the school and community.
“We were just wondering if we were gonna make it to the playoffs. We were confident in the area tournament and knew if the games were close we could win them. We got hot toward the end of the end of the season, won our area and made it here. Everything fell in place for us. I can’t begin to say how proud I am of this team.”
Photo: Bri Aaron shoots over Centerpoint’s Keonna Farmer (12) on Feb. 21. Aaron led all scorers with 21 points. Photo by Joshua Price/Messenger.