Fayette advances to state playoffs; season ends for three other locals

Wed, 02/13/2008 - 11:12pm
By: Kevin Wandra

By the end of the first round of the Region 2-AAAA basketball tournament Wednesday, only one local team was left standing, the Fayette County Lady Tigers, who sealed a spot in the state playoffs with a 56-37 victory over the Creekside Lady Seminoles at Fayette County High School.

The three other local teams playing in the tournament, the McIntosh Lady Chiefs, Starr’s Mill Lady Panthers and Whitewater Lady Wildcats, saw their seasons come to an end. Northgate defeated McIntosh 38-21, Woodward Academy defeated Starr’s Mill 51-38, and Westlake defeated Whitewater 60-23.

Fayette played without two key reserves, guards Jasmine Facey and Kristene Walker, both of whom were suspended, but the Lady Tigers still had dynamic point guard Tessah Holt, who put on a show in front of the home crowd, turning in a double-double (a game-high 17 points and 12 assists).

The junior point guard ran the floor with aplomb, creating scoring opportunities for her teammates with her floor vision and dribbling skills in Fayette’s fast-paced offense. When Holt wasn’t dishing the ball to her teammates, she was dicing apart Creekside’s defense with her shooting skills.

Holt made an early impact, recording five assists in the first quarter, which concluded with Fayette ahead 14-10. The Lady Tigers, led by Holt, remained in front the rest of the way; they led by double digits almost the entire second half.

Holt did her most damage in the third quarter, in which she scored 10 points. She dazzled Creekside in the quarter, hitting long and midrange jumpers, draining free throws and slashing to the basket for layups.

“Tessah was outstanding tonight,” Fayette coach John Strickland said. “Her passes were right on the money. She really got our transition game going.”

Two players who benefitted the most from Holt’s play were sophomore standouts Anma Onyeuku and Sasha Sims. Onyeuku, who’s having a breakout season for the Lady Tigers, finished with 16 points and seven rebounds, and Sims added 11 points, five rebounds and five blocks.

Fayette’s offense stood out, but it was its defense, particularly its 2-3 zone, that was perhaps the primary reason the Lady Tigers easily got past the Lady Seminoles. Fayette held Creekside to under 40 points for the first time since Jan. 18, when Fayette defeated the Lady Seminoles 62-39.

Kayla Ramsby scored 14 points and Ashley Smith had 10 for Creekside.

The opening game between McIntosh and Northgate was close for a quarter — the two teams combined for only eight points in the first quarter — then Northgate pulled away in the second quarter, outscoring McIntosh 12-6 to enter halftime with a 17-9 lead.

McIntosh pulled to within two on a 3-pointer by Laura Higgason, a runner by Erin Justice and a free throw by Denise Hinton midway through the quarter. But Northgate closed the quarter with six consecutive points and never looked back.

McIntosh's shooting woes carried over into the second half; it scored only three points in the third quarter — Northgate scored 13 — and nine in the fourth quarter.

The Lady Chiefs failed to score in double digits in each of the four quarters.

Northgate’s ability to reach the free throw line was the difference. It made 19 of 32 free throws.

McIntosh shot only eight free throws, making one.

Sharp-shooting guard Natalie Pluskota had one of her best games of the season against McIntosh, scoring a game-high 17 points. She was the only player who scored in double figures.

Erica Albers scored eight points and Brianna Banks added seven for Northgate.

Higgason led McIntosh with six points.

Woodward jumped all over Starr’s Mill late in the first quarter, going on a 9-0 run that helped it take a 15-5 lead into the second quarter. Lucy Boone scored four points and Ashley Pritchett had three during Woodward’s run.

Woodward remained ahead by double digits until the third quarter, when Starr’s Mill came to life, opening the quarter with a 6-0 run that cut Woodward’s lead to 24-18 and included four points from Marie Jubb.

The Lady War Eagles responded with a 10-2 run to increase their lead to 34-20, and they kept a double-digit lead the rest of the way.

Jubb led all scorers with 14 points. Tempest Ponds scored 10 points and Marissa Ring added seven for Starr’s Mill.

Woodward was led by Boone (11 points), Elan Brown (10) and Janae Davis (eight).

The night ended with third-ranked Westlake dominating Whitewater from start to finish.

The Lady Lions played suffocating defense, holding Whitewater to five points in the first half.

Westlake’s up-tempo offense was too much for Whitewater as it kept taking it to the Lady Wildcats, especially inside, where Westlake had a significant size advantage.

Ten different players scored for Westlake, including two who scored in double figures, Tamika Willis, who scored a game-high 12 points, and Shaniece Sheffield, who scored 11 points. Dalila Robinson added nine.

The lone bright spot for Whitewater was freshman Emily Stallings, who scored a team-high 11 points, including three 3-pointers, all in the fourth quarter.

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