By Joshua Price/Sports Editor
The grandest trophy in the county returned to Hokes Bluff on Jan. 20.
The Lady Eagles scratched and clawed their way to a 53-48 victory over Southside in the championship match of the Etowah County basketball tournament.
“I am proud of this team,” Hokes Bluff head coach Jason Shields said. “To do what they did in the fourth quarter is testimony to the hard work they put into practice and they never give up. This team is not afraid to be behind. They fight back.”
Southside commanded a 38-35 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Hannah Evans’ 3-pointer at 5:50 gave the Lady Eagles the lead, for good.
Southside narrowed the margin to two points in 34 seconds remaining in the game and were forced to foul. Carlie Shields made 2-of-2 from the foul line with 26 seconds remaining and Savannah Ward sealed the win with a free throw of her own with 9 ticks left.
Ward was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
“Winning the county championship was one our goals this season,” Ward said. “I feel really blessed to get this award, but any of my teammates are as much deserving of this as I am.”
Both teams played well defensively. Hokes Bluff commanded a 13-8 lead at the end of the opening period.
Southside fought back, but Ward’s buzzer-beater retained the Lady Eagles’ lead at intermission, 22-21.
The Lady Panthers outscored the Lady Eagles in the third quarter, 17-13, to take the lead into the final frame.
Hannah Evans led Hokes Bluff with 13 points, six rebounds and four assists. Summer Wilson followed with 12 points, while Shields added 11. Ward chipped in 10.
Haley Troup and Katie Mitchell paced the Panthers with 12 points each. Troup pulled five rebounds and made five assists. Mitchell grabbed eight rebounds. Savannah Thomas added 10. Molly Tucker scored seven points while pulling six boards.
Ward is not surprised with Hokes Bluff’s success, which has not lost a game since the Christmas break.
“We beat the best three teams in the county last week in the tournament. We are focused right now and work really hard in practice. We do what we have to do to win and we win.”