Talladega holds off ‘resilient’ Lady Warriors, 50-46

Cherokee County High School’s Mary Hayes Johnson dribbles up the court against Talladega in girls basketball sub-regional action on Monday. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director

CENTRE – The game plan first-year girls basketball coach Richard Barton had for the Cherokee County Lady Warriors against the Talladega Lady Tigers in their Class 4A sub-regional game sounded simple enough.

Put a body on Trinity Webb and box her out.

That proved to be easier said than done for the Lady Warriors.

The 5-foot-8 junior post player scored a game-high 22 points, including an 8-of-10 performance from the free-throw line, in leading the Lady Tigers to a 50-46 victory to end Cherokee County’s season at 22-8.

“Just seeing them on film and knowing what they were, you’ve got to put a body on 2 (Webb) and box her out or she’s going to make you pay for it,” Barton said. “That’s exactly what happened. Another thing was the run out. We knew they liked to do that. Four (Houston Goins) leaked out and she got us quite a few times. It’s like every time we made a run they hit one of those two (players) for a basket.”

Goins netted 17 points for the Lady Tigers (21-7), including all six of her free-throw attempts. For the game, Talladega connected on 17-of-23 shots from the charity stripe.

The game was close in the first half. The Lady Warriors held a 15-13 advantage after one and Talladega took a 24-23 edge at halftime. The Lady Tigers opened the second half on a 9-0 run to take a 33-23 lead, but the Lady Warriors didn’t back down. The managed to go on a 9-0 run themselves, capped by an Audrey Haygood 3-pointer to pull Cherokee County within a point at 33-32.

Goins sank a trey just before the quarter ended to extend Talladega’s lead back out to four at 36-32 heading into the fourth quarter.

“We tried some different things and kind of went away from what we were doing all season,” Barton said. “We kind of got back to that right there late in the second half. We were able to get some steals and get going a little bit.

“We thought we could apply some pressure on them out of the man-to-man look. We thought we had some mismatches at certain positions. We just weren’t getting pressure, but then we were able to go 1-2-2 right there in the second half and get some traps. They forced some turnovers and we were able to turn those into some baskets.”

Mary Hayes Johnson, who led the Lady Warriors with 19 points and sank three 3-pointers, tied the game at 38 with a basket following a rebound by Ella Garmany in the fourth quarter with 6:10 remaining.

But the Lady Warriors could never quite get over the hump down the stretch. Talladega managed to close out the game on a 12-8 run to escape with the win.

“We just fell a bit short,” Barton said. “I think really what it comes down to is not being able to execute and finish in the half-court.

“I’m proud of them. They were down 10 and were able to claw and fight back. They’re a resilient group.”

Haygood had 11 points for Cherokee County. Garmany, Deannia Starr and Nevaeh Gaidurgis each finished with four points.

Much of that resilient group will return next season for the Lady Warriors. They lose just one senior in Garmany.

“Our junior class is really strong,” Barton said. “I think one thing we can grow on is finding some leadership. Hopefully those girls, being seniors next year, we’ll step that up and allow us to grow a little bit. It can only go up.

“Seeing how much they’ve grown in just one year, we’re really looking forward to having summer with them and being able to continue coaching them and watching them grow and become better basketball players. I think we have all the potential to be back here and further.”

Zae Cunningham added five points for the Lady Tigers, who advance to Jacksonville State University’s Pete Mathews Coliseum. They will take on New Hope on Saturday.

New Hope defeated Etowah 58-40 in other sub-regional action on Monday.

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