SOUTHWESTERN—For Tim Rice and the Southwestern Lady Warriors, it was certainly a loss they didn’t expect.

Facing the 1-23 Monticello Lady Trojans on Monday night, on their homecourt in the opening round of the Girl’s 48th District Basketball Tournament, Rice and company suffered an unexpected loss.

Fortunately for Rice and crew, this was a loss that wasn’t on the scoreboard, but it was still one that might hurt on down the post-season road.

About 45 minutes before tipoff of last night’s contest, Southwestern’s starting point guard, Devin Fothergill, suffered an apparent injury to her Achilles, and was unable to play in the contest.

Fothergill’s absence didn’t slow down the Lady Warriors however, as Southwestern earned a berth into next week’s Girl’s 12th Regional Tournament, holding off a pesky and youthful Monticello squad by a final tally of 69-44.

“When they get hurt about 15 to 18 minutes before the game starts, it kind of puts you behind the eight-ball,” noted Rice, after his club moved to 17-10 on the season with the win.

“We hadn’t prepared for that injury, but fortunately, in practice this week, we had prepared by playing some people at different positions, just in case of foul trouble or if something like that did happen,” said Rice. “(Jessica) Douglas had gotten some good work in this week at the point, and of course she has backed up Devin all year there. She did a pretty good job tonight of running the team.”

Indeed, despite the fact the Lady Warriors had trouble pulling away from Monticello, Southwestern didn’t seem to miss a beat without its starting point guard on the floor.

Jessica Girdler scored 6 of her 13 points in the first half, and when she nailed her second trey of the game at the 5:52 mark of the first half, the Lady Warriors enjoyed their biggest lead of the half at that point, leading Monticello 26-14, forcing a Lady Trojan timeout.

Southwestern’s defense bothered a young Monticello team, starting three players still in middle school, all night long, by forcing the visitors into 15 first-half turnovers, and 30 miscues for the game.

Meanwhile, the Lady Warriors were getting the job done offensively as well. Southwestern threw a very balanced scoring attack at Monticello. The Lady Warriors placed four players in double figures, while 8 Southwestern players notched their name in the scorebook.

Rice said he felt one of the keys to his team’s victory was the fact it still had respect for Monticello, despite the fact the Lady Trojans brought a 1-23 record into the contest.

“That’s one of the hardest things in coaching, to get a team up for a game that they think they are supposed to win,” Rice stated.

“My hat is off to Monticello, because they came out tonight and played hard, and they hung in there,” continued the Lady Warrior coach. “I really respect those girls, because they played with a lot of effort out there tonight. They played us very tough, especially in the first half.”

Southwestern began to slowly pull away from Monticello, by outscoring the Lady Trojans in the third stanza, 15-10.

Rice and crew led Monticello by a very comfortable margin, 48-31, headed into the fourth period of play, and was able to do it without its starting point guard, Fothergill on the floor.

Rice says that for now, the Lady Warrior staff is hopeful they will have Fothergill back for the championship game of the tournament on Friday night.

But, for now, her status is at best, very questionable.

“The trainer looked at Devin, and for now, he is saying that hopefully, it’s just a minor strain of the Achilles,” said Rice.

“We sat her out for precautionary reasons tonight, and hopefully, with three days off to rest it, we’ll be able to play her some on Friday night,” he added.

Southwestern placed four players in double figures, with Chasidy Zimmerman leading the way with 16 points in the win.

Girdler added a baker’s dozen with 13 points for Southwestern, while Ashley Fowler had 11 points, and Jasi Flynn added 10 points.

Monticello was led by its only senior on the team, Brittany Carrender, who in the final game of her prep career led everyone with a game-high 17 points.

Southwestern will meet the winner of tonight’s, Wayne County-McCreary Central matchup on Friday night, in the championship game of the tournament at 7:00 p.m.

For Rice, now in his second year at the helm of the Lady Warrior program, to have his team in the championship game of the district tournament, and a berth in next week’s 12th Regional Tournament, is a very special feeling indeed for the Lady Warrior head coach.

“If you would have asked one hundred people around the 12th Region, who was going to be the number one seed in the 48th District this season, no one would have picked us, but they would have all picked either Wayne County or McCreary Central,” noted Rice.

“We stepped up and played during the season, and we earned the number one spot, and tonight, we took advantage of what a number one spot can give you, because we got to play a four-seed,” added the SWHS head coach. “We played hard all year, and we’ve earned this. This is the first time that any of these girls have had a chance to play in a regional tournament, and that’s one good thing about tonight’s win.”

Tonight, the 48th District Tournament will continue from Southwestern High School, with a pair of games in another girl-boy doubleheader.

At 6:15 p.m., the Lady Raiders of McCreary Central will square off against Wayne County, with the winner advancing to meet Southwestern on Friday night, in the championship game of the girl’s tourney.

In tonight’s second game, Monticello and McCreary Central boys will meet, with the winner advancing to take on Southwestern in Thursday night’s championship game of the boy’s tournament.

MONT 12 9 10 13 44

SW 18 15 15 21 69

MONT (44)—Carrender 17, Frost 9, Cooper 8, Morrow 5, Casada 2, Owens 2, West 1.

SW (69)—Zimmerman 16, Girdler 13, Fowler 11, Flynn 10, Overton 8, Salyers 6, Douglas 4, Danay Fothergill 1.

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