By DOUG EADS, CJ Correspondent
In their first meeting of the season way back on January 8th, the Pulaski County Lady Maroons scored four points over the game's final eight seconds to steal one over Somerset by a final score of 73-72.
Last night at The PC Gym in the rematch between these two 47th District rivals, the Lady Jumpers made sure they nailed this one down in the third quarter.
Erin Walker's club won last night's game thanks in large part to outscoring homestanding Pulaski County by a mind-boggling 23-5 in the third frame, propelling the Lady Jumpers to a much-needed, 65-55 win over Pulaski County.
"We've had so many close games that we've lost, and I looked up at the clock tonight with about a minute and a half go, I see our 13-point lead dwindling away and it was down to about six points," stated a very happy coach Walker, after Somerset improved to 9-13 on the season and to 2-4 in district play with the victory.
"We started doing some dumb things again - throwing the ball away and losing our heads, not boxing out and giving up easy shots," lamented the SHS coach. "I called that timeout and tried to calm them down, and they did well after that down the stretch."
Last night's game was almost a repeat performance from the first meeting between these two clubs, as Somerset raced out to a quick, 8-0 lead before some fans had a chance to get into their seats.
And, much like that first meeting, the Lady Maroons would roar back from the dead.
Haley Warren - seeing her first action in four games after suffering a fracture to her orbital bone a couple of weeks ago - gave Pulaski County a much-needed spark almost immediately.
The senior guard hit two of her three treys in the first quarter, helping PC erase that early eight-point deficit to fight back for a 16-12 lead over Somerset after one stanza.
In the second quarter, Pulaski County stretched its lead out to as much as nine points - 21-12 - but Somerset would claw its way back to cut the deficit to 29-25 at the intermission.
In the third quarter, the Lady Jumpers - simply put - put this game away.
Somerset outscored PC in the decisive frame 23-5, holding the Lady Maroons to just a pair of baskets from point guard Brittany Warren.
"They (Somerset) went to that triangle and two in the third quarter and did a very good job of putting pressure on Bert and Ernie (Brittany and Haley Warren), and our other kids were timid to shoot the ball, and they've got to step up and shoot it," stated PC head coach Brian Miller, after his team lost its eighth game in a row falling to 9-14 on the year.
"We've got confidence in some of those kids to make shots, and we did miss a couple of easy looks during Somerset's run there in the third," added the PC coach. "I give Somerset credit - they came out with more intensity than we did, and we just didn't come out with as much intensity in the third quarter. They simply outplayed us in the third quarter."
Somerset began the second half with a 10-2 run, taking a 35-31 lead over the Lady Maroons, forcing Miller to call a timeout with 5:26 remaining in the period.
That strategy didn't work for the PC coach.
Later in the quarter, Somerset's Maranda Mills hit the first of her two treys on the night, and followed that up with a steal and layup.
That five-point outburst over a span of about 20 seconds gave the Lady Jumpers their first double digit lead of the night - 46-34 - and Somerset was on its way to a much-needed district win.
However, despite the fact her club outscored PC by that 23-5 margin in the third stanza taking a 48-34, Walker and the Lady Jumpers had to hold on for dear life in the fourth period, thanks to a furious PC rally.
With about five minutes remaining, Somerset led Pulaski County 55-38, but the Lady Maroons would show some heart.
Back to back treys by Andrea Jenkins and Haley Warren cut the deficit to 55-44 about midway through the fourth period, but there would be more to come from Pulaski County.
A Sarah Correll steal and layup brought her club even closer with just over two minutes left to play at 58-51.
A Taylor Brock trey brought Pulaski even closer with a minute to go at 59-55, but Bethany Edwards would help Somerset seal the victory at the free throw line over the game's final minute, helping the Lady Jumpers finish off the district portion of our schedule with a 2-4 mark.
"We came into the game with a different game plan in the second half," pointed out Walker after her club's win on Friday night.
"We chose to take the two twins out (Haley and Brittany Warren), and face-guarded them, and we wanted to make the other three beat us," added the SHS coach. "That was our game plan in the second half. We were playing well defensively, we were boxing out and getting rebounds, and then offensively we were beating their press and making layups. In the second half, we just made good team basketball decisions."
For Pulaski County, the loss last night to Somerset has left the Lady Maroons with a 9-14 record - mired in an eight-game losing streak.
However, not all is lost for PC.
Haley Warren's return to the lineup last night was a much-needed momentum boost for a Lady Maroon club that got another starter - Sarah Howard - back earlier this week, after missing much of the year with a broken foot injury.
Last night's game marked only the fifth time this year in 23 games that Miller has had his entire roster available, in a year that has been beset with injury after injury.
For now, the PC coach is hopeful his club can get used to playing together again over the regular season's final two weeks before post-season play begins.
"We've went through a really tough stretch and we've played a tough schedule, and we've had two starters that we relied on (Haley Warren and Sarah Howard) has been out for most of that stretch," lamented coach Miller after the game.
"Sarah's been out for most of the season and then Haley got hurt and missed three games, but we're not making any excuses," Miller added. "Our young kids stepped up and played well, but now we've got to find somebody else that can score, and we've got to get everybody back on the same page. Those kids have been out - Haley hasn't practiced with the team year and Sarah's only practiced three days - so it's all about us learning our roles again and learning how to execute our offense again."
Pulaski County will return to action this afternoon - weather permitting - as the Lady Maroons will travel to Albany to face Clinton County, before returning home on Monday night to face Cumberland County.
Somerset meanwhile will also be in action tonight, playing on the road at Russell County.
That game is set to tip off at 7 p.m.
SHS - 12 13 23 17 - 65
PC - 16 13 5 21 - 55
SOMERSET - Scott 22, Brooks 15, Mills 14, Edwards 12, Bigelow 2.
PULASKI CO. - B. Warren 15, H. Warren 14, Jenkins 8, Correll 6, Ingram 3, Brock 3, Howard 3, Davis 2, Hudson 1.