Lady Jackets strong down the stretch in tournament semifinals

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By Chris McCarthy/Editor

With her team holding a one-point lead over Westbrook Christian at the start of the fourth quarter on Tuesday (Feb. 3), Glencoe head coach Yvette Sparks knew where and how much she wanted to go down the stretch.

Inside and often.

Forwards Jessica Rathje and Kaileigh Billingsley each scored six points during a pivotal fourth quarter stretch to help produce a 62-47 victory for Glencoe and a berth in the championship game of the Class 3A, Area 11 Tournament.

“We just to it to them in the fourth quarter,” said Sparks. “When Jessica goes, it’s hard to stop her, and she really started to get those rebounds at that point in the game. Kaileigh came up with some incredible plays. She really beefed up her confidence. We talked at halftime about doing a better job of rebounding, and I think we took over the boards in the fourth quarter. We also did a better job on defense, and I thought that the game escalated to the point where our girls felt free enough that they could go ahead and take the game at the end.”

Senior guard Maddie Osborne provided ample help from the outside, scoring nine of her game-high 19 points over the final eight minutes when she was playing with four fouls. Osborne also went 4-for-4 at the free throw line over the final two minutes when the Lady Warriors were still within single digits.

“There comes a point in the fourth quarter when you know that you can play wholeheartedly and not worry about fouling out,” said Sparks. “I think that freedom really gave her the green light. Maddie is our floor leader, and tonight she took key opportunities and made great decisions from the floor. She communicated with throughout the game and ran the plays that I asked her to run.” 

After the lead changed hands 12 times throughout the game, Glencoe went ahead for good on Rathje’s layup at the 5:25 mark of the fourth quarter. Billingsley then went to work in the post, scoring six straight points to put the Lady Yellow Jackets up 50-42. A

A basket by Lockridge and a foul shot from Hannah Grace Riggin pulled the Lady Warriors within 52-45 with 2:45 to go, but a pair of layups by Rathje and another from Billingsley pushed the Westbrook advantage to double digits with 1:05 remaining, and Westbrook did not score again.

Lockridge who iss averaging 16.4 points per game, was held to 11.

“Our goal was to focus on Abby and not allow open layups,” said Sparks. “Abby’s a very good player and still found some lanes to the basket.”

Billingsley finished with 16 points, while Rathje added 14. 

Ella Lawley scored 10 points for Westbrook.

In a back-and-fourth first quarter, Karly Royal’s traditional three-point play in the closing seconds provided Glencoe with a 16-11 lead.

The hosts stretched their cushion to seven points in the second period, but the Lady Warriors put together a 13-3 run that was highlighted by a pair of three-pointers from Lawley and gave the visitors a 24-23 lead.

Lockridge’s field goal and free throw sent Westbrook into the break ahead 29-26.

“We had so many girls in foul trouble that we had to stall, which we’ve never done before in the first half,” said Sparks. “It wasn’t the prettiest stall, but we did what we needed to do to keep the score close.” 

Lockridge’s three-pointer in the first minute of the second half gave the Lady Warriors their largest margin of the night at four points, but six points from Osborne and five from Billingsley helped Glencoe take a 39-38 lead heading into the final quarter. 

Glencoe advanced to Thursday’s championship game against Ashville, which defeated Ohatchee in the other semifinal contest. 

“Ashville’s a scrappy team that plays harder as the game goes on,” said Sparks. “So our goal is to run our offense and play solid in the first half, then in the second half it will be about us matching their intensity.”  

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