By DOUG EADS, CJ Correspondent
It may have been a week until Christmas last night at Southwestern’s Wigwam, but the way the Somerset Lady Jumpers and the Lady Warriors got after each other on the hardwood, you’d thought it was the championship game of a regional tourney.
You want intensity – this game had it.
You want physical play – this game had it.
You want hard fouls when driving to the hoop – this game had it.
In the first meeting between the two clubs back on November 27th, Southwestern raced out to an 18-point lead and held on down the stretch, thwarting a furious Somerset comeback for a season-opening win over the Lady Jumpers.
In last night’s rematch, it was Somerset racing out to a quick, 19-7 lead, but from that point on this one was all Southwestern.
Adison Corder scored 12 of her team-high 18 points in the second half, while Samantha Fitzgerald added 17, as Southwestern completed the season-sweep over the Lady Jumpers with a hard-fought, 65-51 victory over Somerset.
“Somerset really came out to play tonight and played very hard from the outset,” stated Southwestern head coach Tim Rice after the contest.
“We’re just not used to getting behind, but we’re used to being in the lead – we just didn’t play well in the first quarter,” lamented the Lady Warrior coach. “In the second quarter, we got our legs under us a little bit and made a good run to get back into the game.”
It was a Somerset run early that forced the Lady Warriors to have to play from behind for one of the few times this season.
After falling behind the Lady Warriors 4-0 to start the game, Somerset took charge with a 12-0 run of its own, grabbing an eight-point lead.
The Lady Jumpers led 16-7 after one period of play, and when Virginia Scott drained a three-point basket to begin the second frame, Somerset would enjoy its biggest lead of the night at 16-7.
However, that’s exactly when Southwestern begin to get its legs under it, and things went south and in a hurry for the purple and gold.
After falling behind by that 16-7 margin, Southwestern would go on huge run of its own, outscoring Somerset 38-14 over the next two quarters of play, taking a 45-33 lead over the Lady Jumpers at the end of the third period.
A major warning sign for the Lady Jumpers arguably came at the intermission.
Thanks to a Samantha Fitzgerald basket just before the horn sounded to end the first half, the Lady Warriors went into the intermission with a 27-23 lead over Somerset.
The Lady Warriors – fresh off a 28-point win over Owensboro Catholic over the weekend in a game where they hit 16 treys – led Somerset by that four-point margin without a single three made in the opening half of play.
Still, one thing the Lady Jumpers did do well in Tuesday night’s game was get off to a quick start – something that first-year head coach Erin Walker had been yearning to see her club do for the entire season.
“We tried something new and did some vigorous activities in our warm-up routine, and it did help,” pointed out the SHS coach.
“In the first half, I thought we played one of the best halves we have played all year – except for the last two or three minutes,” Walker added. “We had a couple of mental mistakes, and you are going to have that if the girls are not use to playing together completely and the chemistry is not there yet.”
Southwestern’s Adison Corder hit her club’s first three-pointer of the night with 6:18 remaining in the third quarter of play, which at that time gave the Lady Warriors a 32-25 advantage.
Fitzgerald meanwhile scored three baskets during an impressive Lady Warrior run in the third quarter – a spurt that saw Rice’s club extend the margin out to as much as 14 points – 42-28 – late in the third quarter of play.
“Basically, what I told our team at halftime was the fact we couldn’t play any worse than we did in the first half, yet we were still leading them by four points,” Rice stated.
“I told them that in the first four or five minutes in the third quarter that we had to come out and make a statement and needed to get the lead up to 10, 12, or 14 points, and we did that,” continued the Lady Warrior coach. “We started clicking in the second half and we did a much better job of getting up on the boards and played with a lot more aggressiveness.”
Scott meanwhile continued her torrid scoring pace, leading everybody with a game-high 26 points, but she didn’t get enough help in this one.
Somerset cut the lead to single digits early in the final stanza by scoring the quarter’s first four points making it 45-37 in favor of Southwestern, but a basket from Fitzgerald and a nice drive to the hoop by Corder countered that flurry, once again giving the Lady Warriors a 12-point cushion at 49-37, and the Lady Jumpers would never really threaten in this game again.
“You know, I am pleased with our performance,” pointed out coach Walker. “That’s not a 14-point game, and that score doesn’t represent the game.”
“It was a physical game and that hurt us,” stated Walker. “In the first half – Madison Brooks – our post player, we have to pull her out of the game with three fouls. Southwestern goes on a run, and instead of being up by five points, we’re down by four at the half. Then, Madison goes down with an injury in the second half, and without her on the floor, we have no one physically who can match up with Southwestern’s post player.”
Both clubs will be back in action tomorrow night, beginning play in pre-Christmas tournaments.
The Lady Warriors – 6-1 on the season with last night’s win over Somerset – will travel to Lexington Catholic High School, and will take part in the Republic Bank Classic, facing highly-touted Ashland Blazer in the opening round of the tourney.
Somerset meanwhile – now 1-5 on the year – will face Claiborne, Tennessee in the opening round of the Union Discount Pharmacy Classic, which will be hosted by Union County, Tennessee High School.
SHS – 16 7 10 18 – 51
SW – 7 20 18 20 – 65
SOMERSET – Scott 26, Mills 13, Edwards 10, Ford 2.
SOUTHWESTERN –Corder 18, Fitzgerald 17, Fothergill 10, Molden 9, Combs 8, Latham 3.