By Chris McCarthy/Editor
Rather than discuss strategy at halftime, Gadsden State women’s basketball coach John Butts issued a challenge to his team in its final regular season game on Monday (Feb. 23).
“It wasn’t about x’s and o’s at that point; we were getting out-rebounded and out-hustled,” he said. “I told them it was unacceptable to go out like that on our home court. We came out with a high energy level in the second half, and when we do that, we’re in good shape on most nights.”
The Lady Cardinals certainly caught a second wind after the break, outscoring Alabama Community College Conference rival Southern Union 28 to 19 over the final 12 minutes on the way to a 77-67 victory in Gadsden.
Gadsden State (24-5, 7-3) has a chance compete in the ACCC Tournament beginning on Mar. 4 at Faulkner State Community College in Bay Minette.
With Wallace-Hanceville’s win over Lawson State on Monday, Hanceville and Gadsden State finished in a second-place tie in the ACCC North Division standings. Depending on the result of a coin flip, the Lady Cardinals will either play in next week’s state tournament as a second seed or host a play-in game on Friday against a sixth seed for the right to compete in the state tournament.
Leading 35-33 at the start of the second half, the Lady Cardinals built an eight-point cushion after six minutes. But Gadsden State proceeded to go scoreless from the field for almost four minutes, allowing the Lady Bison (12-14, 1-0) to draw within 49-48 at 11:36.
A 15-5 run gave the Lady Cardinals some breathing room, however, allowing Butts to give the green light to his sharpshooters.
Two 3-point baskets from Taylor Frazier and one from Jaide Walker provided the hosts with a 73-55 advantage with just over five minutes remaining, and Southern Union never again got within single digits.
“When they went to a zone [defense], making those 3’s were huge,” said Butts. “Taylor and Jaide both shoot really high percentage, and they’re our guys who can make them.”
For Gadsden State, Carla Clemmons finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and two blocks and Morgan Jones had 11 points and seven boards.
Kaelyn Irby added 10 points and four assists, while Frazier chipped in nine points.
Walker scored eight points, while Jordan Gray contributed seven points, seven rebounds and three steals.
D.J. Catlin had six points and Brittany Washington grabbed six rebounds.
The Lady Cardinals shot 83 percent (15-for-18) at the foul line.
The hosts found themselves in a 9-2 hole early on after Shalyn Strain knocked down three 3-point baskets.
A trey from Frazier gave Gadsden State its first lead of the game at 17-16, and the rest of the first half was a back-and-forth affair with five ties and seven lead changes.
Austin Richardson’s layup with two seconds remaining made it a 35-33 GSCC advantage at the half.
Shalyn Strain paced Southern Union with 18 points, followed by Audrianna Walker with 14 and Shanna Strain with 12.
“In two years, our sophomore group has won more than 50 games, has played in one conference championship and has the chance to play in another,” said Butts. “Most of those kids won 20 or 30 games every year in high school, so we have a lot of winners on this team.”