By Chris McCarthy/Editor
Scott Sandlin hoped his team learned at least one important lesson on Monday (Jan. 13) while advancing to the semifinals of the Etowah County Basketball Tournament.
“We need to know how to play with a lead late in a game,” said the Sardis High girls basketball coach after his Lady Lions posted a 48-41 victory over Gaston in the tournament’s opening round. “We haven’t played ahead a whole lot this year, so it’s kind of uncharted waters for us.”
After an 18-7 third quarter run gave Sardis (7-10) a 42-31 advantage heading into the final eight minutes, the Lady Lions managed just one field goal the rest of the way.
The extended scoring drought allowed the Lady Bulldogs (3-11) to pull within five points with a little over a minute remaining. Gaston also scored just once from the field in the fourth period, but the Lady Dawgs shot 8-for-10 at the free throw line over the final five minutes to keep within striking distance.
Sardis didn’t help its cause by making 3-of-7 foul shots during the same time frame, but with the Lady Lions in the double bonus, Kacee Mashburn sank both free throw attempts to make it a seven-point lead with 21 seconds left.
Sardis faces No. 1 Hokes Bluff on Wednesday at Gadsden State.
“We try to play at a fast place, and sometimes that causes problems when we need to protect a lead,” said Sandlin. “We did a good job of building the lead [in the third quarter], but our girls really haven’t learned yet how to slow down when they need to. At one point [during the fourth quarter, I wanted to go back into attack mode and let the chips fall where they may, but as a coach I realize that not the best way to do it.”
Mashburn paced Sardis with 12 points, followed by Selena Tarvin with 10 and Emma Towns with eight.
Tarvin had six rebounds, while Katelyn Beasley and Macy Bridges each had five.
The Lady Lions shot 64 percent (11-for-17) from the foul line, while Gaston shot 69 percent (16-for-23).
Sardis ran out to an early 8-2 lead before the Lady Bulldogs finished the first quarter on an 11-5 run. Abby Elrod’s three-pointer with 10 seconds left made it 13-13.
The Lady Lions maintained a slim lead for most of the second period until Kentara Blackwell’s basket and Destiny Allen’s foul shot in the last minute tied the game at 24-24 going into the half.
Sardis made its move in the third quarter after Allen’s bucket at 5:20 pulled Gaston within 27-26. Tarvin’s traditional three-point play started a 15-5 stretch that was capped by Towns’ three-pointer with 1:07 left. Allen scored all seven of the lady Bulldogs’ third quarter points.
Allen led Gaston with 20 points, while Elrod added eight.
“In all honesty, I thought that was the best game we’ve played in a month,” said Sandlin. “We try to shoot around 60 shots per game and play high-pressure defense. Ideally you’d like to sub a lot when you play that way, but we’re still trying to adjust the minutes for some of our backups.”