ROGERSVILLE — Lauderdale County might suffer through the occasional shooting cold spell, but one thing the Tigers can always count on is defense. And it was defense that led them to a 51-34 victory over Covenant Christian in the first game of pool play in the girls TimesDaily Classic girls tournament.
“Our bread and butter is our defense,” Lauderdale County coach Brant Llewellyn said. “Defense is what wins games. We strive to keep getting better every night.”
That defense was especially suffocating around Covenant Christian standout Anna Claire Noblit. The Eagles’ top scorer was harassed all night long by Lauderdale County defenders and forced into taking tough shots. She was held scoreless until the final two minutes of the third quarter, and 12 of her 16 points came in the fourth quarter with the game long decided.
“She’s a great scorer, but I don’t care who you are, Michael Jordan or whoever, if you’ve got a hand in your face every time you go up to take a shot, it’s going to be tough to make it,” Llewellyn said. “Our players did a great job. We made it really tough for her to get a clean shot off tonight.”
Lauderdale County (5-1), the state’s top-ranked team in Class 3A, started the game extremely cold from the floor and trailed 5-2 early against the Eagles (10-1), the No. 3 ranked team in Class 1A. But the defense then heated up, forcing turnovers that led to numerous fast-break opportunities and layups. In fact, the Tigers only hit one jump shot the entire first half, but still led 27-9 at halftime.
The final 17 seconds of the second quarter epitomised the entire game for Lauderdale County. The Tigers had a 20-9 lead with time winding down before a layup with 17 seconds left in the half. Covenant Christian then turned the ball over after the inbounds pass which led to an Emma Wallen 3-pointer. The Tigers then stole the inbounds pass again and got another layup before the halftime horn, turning an 11-point lead into an insurmountable 18 point lead at intermission.
“They suffocated us with their press,” Covenant Christian coach Bill Deegan said. “They are a very strong team and well-coached. Defensively they are very quick and they really get after it.”
Emma Wallen led Lauderdale County with 16 points while Chatara Cox had eight, despite the starters sitting most of the second half and the entire fourth quarter. Covenant Christian was led by Noblit and Bailey Hill, who both scored 16 points.
Both Covenant Christian and Lauderdale County play Russellville today in the pool play round of the Classic. Covenant plays Russellville at 4:30 p.m. while Lauderdale County takes on the Golden Tigers at 7:30 p.m. A Lauderdale County win would put the Tigers in the tournament semifinals.
Florence 78, Sheffield 11
Florence jumped out to a 28-0 lead after the first quarter and cruised to a 78-11 victory over Sheffield in its first pool play game.
The Bulldogs had no answer for Florence’s Lakien Dillard, who scored 24 points. Alexis Sherrod added 16 points while Emily Towery chipped in 11 for the Falcons.
Sheffield was led by Somerlyn Orick with five points.
“We really cut down on our turnovers tonight,” Florence coach Marc Johnson said. “We did committ a little bit more fouls than I would like, but overall it was a solid performance.”
Johnson said he was pleased with the way his team executed against an overmatched opponent.
“We’re trying to become a good team, and you can’t do that if you play to the level of your opponent,” Johnson said. “We are where we are now and we’re trying to get better.”
Florence will play Brooks at 6 p.m. today while Sheffield is finished in the tournament. The winner of the Florence-Brooks game will advance to the tournament semifinals at UNA’s Flowers Hall.
Brooks 77, Sheffield 23
Brooks was already well ahead of Sheffield at halftime, but an 18-0 run to start the second half left no doubt as the Lions cruised to a 77-23 win in its first pool play game.
Brooks led 40-21 at halftime, but outscored Sheffield 37-4 in the second half to turn the game into a runaway.
Every player on the Brooks roster scored except for one. K’maya Roach led Brooks with 15 points while Erin Jewell added 14 and Kim Crowson chipped in 12 for the Lions in the victory.
Sheffield was led by Tyzia Pride with nine points.