By DOUG EADS, CJ Correspondent
On Tuesday night at The Wigwam, the Southwestern Lady Warriors were well on their way to win number 11 on the season with a 39-22 lead over visiting Russell County at halftime.
With just over a minute left in regulation, Tim Rice’s club was fighting for its life.
That’s right, it was a tale of two halves between Southwestern and the Lady Lakers on Tuesday night, but when all was said and done, it was Craig Pippen’s club that stole a victory from the blue and orange.
Madison Loy tallied all nine of her points in the fourth quarter and overtime, while Kailey Coffey scored 18 points off the bench, helping Russell County erase that 17-point halftime deficit to roar back for a hard-fought, 69-62 win over the Lady Warriors in overtime.
After watching his club snatch a loss from the jaws of a victory, Rice was not a very happy coach at all after his team fell to 10-8 on the season with the disheartening defeat.
“They (Russell County) just played harder than us,” stated a very unhappy Southwestern coach immediately following the contest.
“We came out in the second half and just played complacent, and that’s not the first time that’s happened to us this year,” Rice continued. “If you go back and look at a lot of our games this year, we’ll be up at halftime, and then get outscored by 14 or 15 points in the third quarter. That’s happened to us all year, and I really don’t have an answer for it.”
Early on, this one was all Southwestern, as it was the Lady Lakers that didn‘t have any answers at all for the blue and orange.
Adison Corder -- who scored a game-high 26 points in the defeat -- scored 16 of those points in the opening half of play on the strength of four three-point baskets.
Thanks to six made treys in the first half by the Lady Warriors, Rice and crew went in at the intermission with a 39-22 lead.
Game over right?
Somebody forgot to tell the Lady Lakers this game was over.
Leeann Grider -- who tied Coffey with 18 points -- scored 10 of those points in the third period, as the Lady Lakers began their comeback.
“They just outplayed us tonight,” lamented Rice. “On their first three possessions of the second half, they got offensive rebounds for putbacks. They scored eight points before we ever scored.”
Russell County -- thanks to outscoring Southwestern 19-7 in the third frame -- closed the gap to 46-41 headed into the final eight minutes of play.
In that fourth quarter, Madison Loy -- held without a point for the contest -- scored seven points in the final stanza helping her club continue the improbable comeback.
Her three-point basket with just over two minutes remaining in regulation brought the Lady Lakers to within a single digit -- 56-55.
Later in the period, two free throws by Coffey gave Russell County its first lead -- 57-56 -- since early on when the Lady Lakers grabbed a 2-0 lead.
With only :28 remaining, Corder was fouled and went to the charity stripe for a pair of free throws, but she made only one of two, knotting things up at 57-57.
Russell County held the ball for the final shot, but failed to score, sending this one into overtime.
“We’re just not a very good team right now,” stated Rice very matter of factly.
“I think we are what we are right now, and we’re what our record says we are, and that’s 10-8 and barely above the .500 mark,” pointed out the Southwestern coach. “At this point in time right now, we’re just not a very good basketball team.”
In the extra session, Regan Helm made two of the biggest plays of the night for her club at the beginning of the overtime period.
Helm made a pair of free throws giving Russell County a 59-57 lead early on in the extra session.
After a tying layup by Corder at the other end that knotted the score at 59-59, Helm completed an old-fashioned three-point play on Russell County’s next trip downcourt, and the Lady Lakers would never trail again in this one.
Late in the overtime period with Russell County leading Southwestern 65-62, the Lady Warriors had a pair of golden chances to get back in this one.
Destiny Molden’s three-point attempt was just short of the basket, but Corder got the rebound, and her three attempt at the top of the key clanged off the rim as well.
Coffey got the rebound for the Lady Lakers and was fouled, and cooly sank both of her free throws at the other end, extending the lead out to 67-62 over Southwestern with only :17 remaining in the game.
At that point, Southwestern was in big-time trouble and wound up losing a game in which the Lady Warriors led by 17 points at the intermission.
“I told our team at halftime that Russell County was going to make a run on us at some point in the third quarter,” stated coach Rice.
“I told them that if we could come out and take the lead to 17 to 22 or 23, then this game would probably be over,” added the Lady Warrior coach. “I told them if we let them cut it down to eight or nine, then it would be a ballgame. Unfortunately for us, that’s exactly what happened.”
Southwestern will try to rebound this evening, but the task at hand will certainly not be an easy one.
The Lady Warriors will travel to Stanford tonight to take on the defending 12th Regional champion Lincoln County Lady Patriots.
Game time is set to get underway at 7:30 p.m.
RC -- 17 5 19 16 12 -- 69
SW -- 22 17 7 11 5 -- 62
RUSSELL CO. -- Grider 18, Grider 18, Helm 15, Loy 9, Hadley 5, Cooper 4.
SOUTHWESTERN - Corder 26, Fitzgerald 13, Molden 10, Latham 7, Fothergill 6.