By DOUG EADS, CJ Correspondent
Coming into the 2012—’13 high school basketball season, the Southwestern Lady Warriors were looking for regional supremacy while the Somerset Lady Jumpers were simply looking for respect.
Last night at Somerset’s Briar Patch in Southwestern’s season opener, Tim Rice’s club got all it wanted and then some from a Lady Jumper team that had lost the night before in its season opener at Garrard County.
After seeing an 18-point first half lead whittled down to just two points late in the game, it was the Lady Warriors doing just enough to escape The Briar Patch with a hard-fought, 63-56 victory over Somerset.
“We’re in a situation now where we’re not seventh or eighth graders, because we’ve played 90 to 100 varsity games,” stated Rice after the contest.
“If we play like this the rest of the season with the kind of schedule we’ve got, it’s going to be a long year,” added the Southwestern coach. “We had way too many turnovers, and we simply didn’t play well tonight. You’ve got to give congratulations to Somerset, because for them to be down 18 points in the first half — a lot of teams would have packed it in — but they continued to play hard and fought for everything they were given. I’m glad to get the win, but to be honest, this feels more like a loss.”
Early on, this one had all the makings of a big-time blowout by the Lady Warriors.
Southwestern came out on fire, rolling to a 21-6 cushion over Somerset after one stanza, and building its lead up to 18 points — 30-12 — midway through the second quarter of play.
At that juncture, first-year Somerset head coach Erin Walker called a timeout, and whatever she said to her club during that stoppage of play certainly hit home with her team.
The Lady Jumpers ended the half with a 12-4 spurt, trimming the deficit to 34-24 at the break.
“Our team fought like dogs tonight and they never gave up,” stated Walker after her club fell to 0-2 on the season.
“I told them after the game that I was proud of them for fighting back, but we can’t let ourselves dig that hole in the first quarter that killed us,” added the SHS coach. “We did the same thing last night at Garrard County. We had one bad quarter and it cost us that game as well. We just have to learn to put four quarters together. If we can learn to do that, we will win a lot of games this year.”
Maranda Mills — who tallied 16 for the Lady Jumpers in the loss — picked off three passes in the second half that all resulted in her going all the way to the basket for layups.
Mills’ first steal and score midway through the third period trimmed the Lady Warrior lead to 36-32, but Southwestern would then respond with a mini-run of its own.
On three consecutive trips downcourt, the Lady Warriors knocked down treys — two by Adison Corder and one by Brittany Combs.
Thanks to that flurry from downtown, Southwestern eased the lead back up to 50-38 heading into the fourth quarter.
“We went through that during pregame,” stated Walker.
“We knew that Southwestern can really shoot the three, and are very good from the perimeter,” added the Lady Jumper coach. “But, we gave them some open looks, and then on a couple of occasions, we had a hand in (Adison) Corder’s face and on (Brittany) Combs, and the shots still went in.”
Trailing Southwestern by those dozen points with just eight minutes remaining, Somerset had one more run left in the tank.
A Mills steal and layup trimmed the deficit down to 54-50, and seconds later, Bethany Edwards picked off a pass and went coast to coast for a bucket, trimming the lead down to 54-52.
However, that would be as close as Somerset would get.
A Samantha Fitzgerald basket extended the margin out to 56-52 on the next trip down the floor for Southwestern, and after a Somerset miss at the other end, Destiny Molden would sink five of six free throws down the stretch, helping the Lady Warriors hold on — or escape — the 63-56 win.
“I guess I’m a ‘glass is half empty’ kind of person,” stated Rice after his club’s win.
“I honestly expected more from us,” continued the Lady Warrior coach. “I thought we played an excellent first 11 minutes tonight. We were making shots and our defense was clicking — we may have just ran out of gas, I just don’t know. I do know this — to be the kind of basketball team we want to be this year, we’re going to have to play much, much better than we did tonight.”
Corder, on the strength of three made three-pointers in the game, led Southwestern with a game-high 20 points, while Samantha Fitzgerald scored 11 of her 12 points after the intermission.
Molden added 10 points, and the Lady Warriors also got a huge lift off the bench from freshman Elisabeth Latham.
Latham scored eight points in the win for Southwestern, while pulling down a game-high 11 rebounds, while blocking six shots.
Somerset meanwhile got a big night from Madison Brooks with 19 points and nine boards.
Mills added 16 points, and Virginia Scott tallied 15 for the 0-2 Lady Jumpers.
Both clubs will be back in action this weekend with home games.
On Friday night, Southwestern will host Boyle County in its home opener, while Somerset will return to The Briar Patch on Saturday night to entertain Madison Southern.
Both games are set to tip off at 7:30 p.m.
SW 21 13 16 13 — 63
SHS 6 18 14 18 — 56
SOUTHWESTERN — Corder 20, Fitzgerald 12, Molden 10, Combs 8, Latham 8, Venable 3, Fothergill 2.
SOMERSET — Brooks 19, Mills 16, Scott 15, Edwards 4, Brown 2.