Fayette girls win region title, Fayette boys take second place

Sat, 02/16/2008 - 10:59pm
By: Kevin Wandra

The writers’ strike recently ended, but no matter who the writer, perhaps none could have written a better ending for the Fayette County Lady Tigers, who defeated the third-ranked Westlake Lady Lions 49-34 to win the Region 2-AAAA championship for the second straight season and their fourth region title in five years Saturday at Fayette County High School.

Coincidentally, the ending Fayette experienced was the exact same ending they were a part of last season. The Lady Tigers lost both regular-season games to Westlake, then defeated the Lady Lions in a four-overtime thriller in the region tournament championship game.

A better ending, however, could have been written for the Fayette boys, who lost to the top-ranked Lions for the third time this season, 73-58.

Most expected the early game between the Lady Tigers and Lady Lions to be a close contest that would be decided late, with Westlake, the top-seeded team in the tournament, coming in as the favorite; the Lady Tigers had lost their previous two games against Westlake this season by a combined 11 points.

Unranked Fayette played like a ranked team that was hungry to win a title and made Westlake look like just another team, not a state-ranked team that had lost only two games heading into the region championship game.

“It’s kind of like last year, when they beat us twice, but we beat them in the region tournament,” Fayette coach John Strickland said. “This year, we were playing hard and trying to figure them out. We put a good game plan together, our kids wanted this, and they really stepped up.”

Kristene Walker took a long pass from Tessah Holt and made a layup to give Fayette a 9-7 lead in the first quarter, and the Lady Tigers led the rest of the way.

Fayette took its first double-digit lead relatively early; Walker’s baseline jumper put Fayette in front 19-9 with 5:25 remaining in the second quarter.

Westlake came back and pulled to within seven on a three-point play by Tamika Willis early in the third quarter. But Fayette responded with a 9-0 run in which four different players — Holt, Arielle Register, Anma Onyeuku and Chasity Welch — scored and that put the Lady Tigers ahead 37-21.

Westlake made one last comeback, receiving two free throws from Dalila Robinson at the end of the third quarter and a 3-pointer from Robinson to begin the fourth quarter to slash Fayette’s lead to 37-31.

Fayette dominated the rest of the way, outscoring Westlake 12-3.

Westlake’s leading scorer, Willis, hit double digits in scoring, finishing with 11, but she had a rough night in the paint, facing double- and triple-teams as soon as she caught the ball. Fayette’s 2-3 zone defense, especially Sasha Sims, who smothered Willis all night, made sure Willis couldn’t control the game from the paint.

Willis’ frustrations were apparent late in the fourth quarter when she threw a sharp elbow in the paint, drawing her fifth foul, which ended her night.

Fayette’s dynamic duo, sophomore forward Onyeuku and junior point guard Holt, both of whom were named to the all-region tournament team, were potent for Fayette. Onyeuku led all scorers with 16 points, and Holt added 10. Walker finished with eight.

Robinson led Westlake with 13 points.

In the late game, Westlake’s big-time combo guard, Oklahoma signee Raymond Willis, was clutch, making numerous game-changing plays from all over the court. He was especially torrid when it counted most, in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 of his game-high 31 points.

He also was near-perfect from the free throw line, where he went 14-of-17.

Willis was one of four Lions players who scored in double figures; Matthew Fields (16 points), Gideon Gamble (12) and Khamori Watts (11) were the others.

Through the first three-and-a-half quarters, the game was close; neither the Tigers nor the Lions held a lead larger than five until Willis hit a runner in the lane to hand Westlake a 47-41 lead with 6:41 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Two minutes after Westlake went up by six, Fayette’s leading scorer, combo guard Noel Johnson, picked up his fourth foul. Johnson was taken in and out of the game by Tigers coach Andre Flynn the rest of the way.

Back in the game with four minutes left, Johnson drilled a 3-pointer and, following a layup by Fields, Cuincy Carruthers hit a 3-pointer to trim Westlake’s lead to 58-54.

That’s as close as Fayette would get as Westlake turned it on late, taking the first double-digit lead of the game (65-55) on a pair of free throws by Watts with 1:43 to go.

Fayette still was within striking distance, but its comeback aspirations took a serious hit when Johnson clobbered Willis for his fifth foul with 1:08 remaining, ending his night.

With Johnson, who scored a team-high 19 points, sitting on the bench, and Fayette forced to foul, Westlake put the Tigers away for good, scoring six of its final eight points at the free throw line.

Westlake was exceptional from the free throw line, hitting 24 of 34 foul shots. Fayette also shot 50 percent from the free throw, going 10-of-20.

Fayette had three players score in double figures — Johnson, Terrance Turner (16 points) and Carruthers (10) — and Addison Flynn came close to hitting double digits, finishing with nine.

Fayette guard Brandon Boykin torched Westlake for 30 points in the teams’ last meeting, but Westlake held him in check the third time around, limiting him to six points.

Both Boykin and Johnson were all-region tournament selections.

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chippie's picture
Submitted by chippie on Sun, 02/17/2008 - 6:34pm.

I'm so proud of all of you!

chippie's picture
Submitted by chippie on Sun, 02/17/2008 - 6:35pm.

I'm proud of all of you guys, too.

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