By Chris McCarthy/Editor
Despite three freshmen and a sophomore in the starting lineup, the Glencoe High girls basketball team was not by any means intimidated by either the raucous atmosphere at Jacksonville State University’s Pete Mathews’ Coliseum or an undefeated Plainview squad in the Class 3A Northeast Regional Tournament semifinals last Monday (Feb. 20).
Whether or not it was a case of being too young to know any better, the Lady Yellow Jackets (17-14) fought tooth and nail against one of the state’s top teams for every one of the contest’s 48 minutes.
The Lady Bears were just a little bit better down the stretch, however, eventually posting a 57-50 victory.
“I’m just real proud of my girls, especially for how we started off the game,” said Glencoe head coach Daniel Cook. “I think it was easy for people to look at the records and see [Plainview] with six seniors and us with none. One of the things you worry about coming into a game like this one is nerves, but my girls are aggressive and never back down from anybody.”
Cook pointed to Glencoe’s 4-for-12 showing at the free throw line (33 percent) as a factor in the loss. Plainview visited the charity stripe 27 times, making 16 of those attempts (60 percent).
“In a game where it ended up being around seven points, a free throw here or a free throw there, all of a sudden it’s a one-possession game.”
Although the Lady Bears (33-0) maintained the lead from the midway point of the third quarter to the final buzzer, Glencoe stayed within striking distance. Trailing 47-37 at the 6:32 mark of the fourth quarter, the Lady Yellow Jackets put together a 10-5 stretch that narrowed the gap to 51-46. A basket by Jacey Bell and free throws from Katherine Thompson and Anabelle Brown, however, restored Plainview’s double-digit advantage with just under a minute to play.
Breia Little converted a lay-up with 44.4 remaining to make it 55-47, but at that point Plainview was in the double bonus situation, and Olivia Graham made two of four attempts over the final 42 seconds to seal the win. Cami Zahorscak knocked down a three-point basket with five seconds remaining to set the final margin at seven points.
For Glencoe, freshman forward Ashley Morgan finished with a double-double of 15 points and 17 rebounds. She shot 70 percent (7-for-10) from the field.
“It felt pretty awesome coming here, but it was not a good experience and I want to come back, for sure. We all played our hardest; it’s not just one person, it’s the whole team.”
Anna Beth Giles added nine points and five rebounds, while Kenleigh Harper contributed seven points and three boards. Little scored five points, while Abby Vice and Lauren Cole each had four points and four rebounds.
Thompson paced the Lady Bears with 21 points while grabbing nine rebounds. Graham added 14 points, while Brown had 10.
“Plainview didn’t start a weak starter, and they started three kids who were just unbelievable,” said Cook. “You’ve got so much focus on (Bell, Graham and Brown), and then you’ve got a girl like Katherine Thompson, who can step in and core 21 points. That’s where Plainview is dangerous.”
Cook pointed to Graham, who played for Westbrook Christian last season, as the reason for his unwillingness to use full court pressure defense for much of the game.
“I know Olivia very well from her playing in our area. I didn’t think that we could trap her. If she got our of it, we’re looking a giving up three-on-ones and three-one-twos, and that wasn’t going to be good.”
Glencoe did finish on top with points off the bench at 10-0.
“One of our strengths is that we can have eight or nine or even 15 girls score,” said Cook. “When teams play us, they almost like they can’t take away anyone, because somebody else is probably going to be like [Thompson] and put in 20 [points].
Glencoe did not wilt under the Lady Bears’ full-court pressure at start of the game. Instead, the Lady Yellow Jackets found enough gaps in the Lady Bear defense to build a quick 7-3 advantage. It helped that the Plainview offense was off-target, making only two of 26 shot attempts. Glencoe led 14-8 after one quarter.
The Lady Bears soon shook off the their poor start. Beginning the second frame with a 10-0 run, Plainview led 18-14 at 5:12. The Lady Jackets called a time-out to regroup, and Vice sank a three-pointer to stop the bleeding. The Lady Bears took a two-point lead three times over the next few minutes before Harper’s trey with 25 seconds remaining sent the teams into intermission tied at 27-27.
The game was tied at 33-33 at the 4:52 mark of the third quarter, but Plainview ended the period on a 13-2 run to go up 46-35 entering the final frame.
“I can’t be any prouder of my girls right now than I already am,” said Cook. “They just kept getting better and kept fighting and fighting this season. One of the things we talked about in the locker room after the game is that we’ve got expectations. As young as we are, going 17-13 and winning the area won’t be good enough anymore.”