ROGERSVILLE — For 26 minutes, Red Bay did an outstanding job of breaking Lauderdale County’s vaunted press defense. However, the six minutes the Tigers struggled against the press ended up costing them a potential victory.
Lauderdale County, ranked No. 1 in Class 3A, used an 18-0 run spanning the final 1:35 of the second quarter and first 4:11 of the third quarter to turn a two-point deficit into a 16-point lead and never looked back in a 57-47 victory in the lower division championship game of the Northwest Alabama Girls Christmas Tournament.
“I really thought we played a pretty good game except for that stretch,” Red Bay coach Donnie Roberts said. “We had some trouble breaking their pressure, and threw some bad passes. We’re a real young team. We play three eighth graders, and sometimes they’re going to make eighth-grade mistakes.”
Lauderdale County trailed 24-22 with 1:35 remaining in the first half, but scored the final six points of the half, including two Chatara Cox free throws with 4.7 seconds left, to take a four-point lead at the break.
The Tigers then came out of the locker room with a renewed intensity in their press, forcing turnovers and not letting Red Bay get into a set offense.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Haley Avery and Emma Wallen gave Lauderdale County a 38-24 lead, and after forcing another Red Bay turnover, Wallen put a cap on the run with a short jumper in the lane.
“We came out in the third quarter and were able to get some things happening with our press finally,” Lauderdale County coach Brant Llewellyn said. “I felt like the first four minutes of the second half we picked up our intensity and the girls played their hearts out.”
Perhaps none moreso than Cox, who was hurt in the first half, but battled through the pain to lead the Tigers with 15 points.
“Chatara was hurt a little bit in the first half, and I wasn’t sure if she was going to be able to go,” Llewellyn said. “But she was a warrior in the second half. She fought to the end.”
Karlee Brown scored 14 points for Lauderdale County (14-2) while Emma Wallen had 13. Red Bay (10-2), the seventh-ranked team in Class 2A, was led by Allie Kennedy with 16 points and Carlee Berry with 11.
It was the first time Lauderdale County has won the tournament it hosts annually since 1999.
“This is a great win for us,” Llewellyn said. “Whenever you play Red Bay, it’s always going to be a battle. There are so well-coached and fundamentally sound. We played four nights in a row and I’m proud of the girls for battling night after night and winning a tough tournament.”
Brooks 53, Mars Hill 48
Brooks outscored Mars Hill 22-13 in the fourth quarter to come back and take a five-point victory in the upper division fifth place game.
The Lions trailed 35-31 after three quarters, but got its offense going in the final period to roar back for the win.
Erin Jewell led Brooks with 19 points while K’maya Roach scored 13 and Britt McCormick had 11. Mars Hill was led by Ann Marie Mitchell with 12 points and Mary Brooke Willis with 11.
Woodland 50, Lexington 39
Woodland outscored Lexington 20-9 in the third quarter to overcome a three-point halftime deficit and pick up an 11-point victory in the lower division fifth place game.
Woodland trailed 23-20 at halftime, but outscored Lexington 30-16 in the second half to pull away for the win.
Addie McGee led Lexington (15-4) with 18 points. Woodland (14-1) was led by Leah Strain with 23 points, Shalyn Strain with 12 and Jaide Walker with 10.
Lee-Huntsville 57, Central 40
Central hung with Lee-Huntsville for three quarters, but just ran out of gas in the fourth quarter of the upper division third place game.
Lee had just a 36-35 lead after three quarters, but outscored Central 21-5 in the final period to turn the game into a runaway.
Madison Floyd led Central with 11 points.