By MICHAEL CHILDERS, CJ Correspondent
Thanks to a 59-41 victory over Monticello last night in the first round of the Girls 48th District Tournament, the Southwestern Lady Warriors are headed to the Girls 12th Region Tournament for the eighth season in a row.
Tim Rice’s ball club survived a second quarter surge from a pesky Lady Trojan bunch to come away with an 18-point victory to put them in Saturday night’s district championship game, as well as a spot in the regional tournament, which will get underway next week at Pulaski County High School.
Southwestern jumped out to a 7-0 lead over the homestanding Lady Trojans and later went on to lead by as much as ten points in the opening quarter. Paced by eight points from sophomore Brittany Combs, Southwestern held a 16-9 lead over Monticello after one quarter in the books.
Marla Kelsch’s Lady Trojans responded back with a 7-0 run in the second stanza to cut the Lady Warrior lead to a mere two points. After back-to-back baskets from Autumn Bell and a three-pointer from Tristan McLean, Monticello lessened the Southwestern lead to 18-16 with 3:29 left until halftime.
Following the McLean three-pointer, Rice took a timeout to talk to his team. Whatever he said in the timeout worked because his bunch came out of the talk with a 12-0 run to end the opening half of hoops action. All 12 points on the run came from sophomore Adison Corder (8 points) and freshman Elisabeth Latham (6 points).
The veteran Lady Warrior coach took a timeout because his bunch wasn’t playing at a high enough intensity.
“I called the timeout because we were lacking focus - we just weren’t focused,” told Rice. “Our girls thought it was going to be easy, but I knew it wouldn’t be easy because Monticello has a lot going for them, as this could have been there last game in this gym.”
At the intermission, Southwestern went into the locker room with a 14-point, 30-16 lead over the Lady Trojans.
The Lady Warriors continued to roll in the third frame, as they took a 39-18 lead thanks to a 9-0 run, which included a three-pointer from sophomore Destiny Molden and a pair of trifectas from Combs. At the conclusion of the third quarter, Southwestern grabbed a 20-point, 48-28 advantage.
Southwestern went on to win the contest by a by final tally of 59-41. For Monticello, the loss ended their season and maybe their program, as the school is more than likely going to close and merge with Wayne County in the 2013-14 school year.
In scoring, the Lady Warriors were led by Combs’ 16 points. The Lady Warrior sophomore nailed four three-pointers in the game. Corder was not far behind Combs, as she finished with 15 points, on the strength of a trio of three-pointers.
Latham, who came off the bench for Coach Rice, finished just short of a triple-double. The freshman finished with 10 points, nine rebounds, and seven blocks.
Rice calls Latham the best sixth man in the entire 12th Region.
“Elisabeth is probably the best sixth man in the 12th Region,” said the Lady Warrior hoops coach. “She gives a really good effort every time that she goes into the game. A lot of the times she comes in, she gives us the boost that we need.”
Freshman Bethany Peyton led the charge for Monticello with 11 points.
Southwestern, who upped their record to 18-11 with the win, will play the winner of tonight’s Wayne County-McCreary Central contest on Saturday night in the finals. Those two clubs will meet up at 7 p.m. tonight at Monticello High School.
Saturday evening’s contest will be the Lady Warriors’ eighth straight appearance in the game. Rice and company will be looking to win four district title in six seasons.
To win their first district championship since the 2010-11 season, the Lady Warriors must play better than they did last night, according to Rice.
“Whichever team we face Saturday night, we’re going to have to play better than we did tonight,” stated the Southwestern basketball coach. “Tonight we had some stretches that we played well and then we had some stretches that I wasn’t pleased with. We can’t play the same way we did tonight on Saturday night.
Southwestern will meet the winner of the Wayne County-McCreary Central game on Saturday evening at 7 p.m. at Monticello High School.
MONT - 9 7 12 13 - 41
SW - 16 14 18 11 - 59
MONTICELLO (6-23): Peyton 11, Bell 9, McLean 8, Miller 6, Gregory 3, Duncan 2, Denney 1, Roberts 1.
SOUTHWESTERN (18-11): Combs 16, Corder 15, Latham 10, Molden 6, Cook 5, Fourman 2.