Danville had to rely on a coin toss to rein in the regular season area title. Good Hope took fate into its own hands in Saturday’s Class 3A, Area 13 Tournaments final, however, using anything but luck to upstage the hosting Hawks in a 34-25 grudge match.
The Lady Raiders don’t always score many points, but they didn’t need to Saturday, instead leaning on lock-down defense, active hands and opportunistic offense to clinch the area championship and a home game for next week’s sub-regional stage.
Seniors Kacy Thomas and Katelyn Bishop carved up 10 and nine points, respectively, while Celest Whisenant put up seven to help the Red and White improve to 19-11.
For Thomas, the revenge for a heartbreaking defeat to Danville all the way back in November was sweet.
“Last time we were here, we lost by one point in double overtime, and we knew we were a better team than them,” she said. “Coming out here and winning it our senior year with this new team, especially with everybody calling us the underdog, it feels good. It feels great.”
The Hawks (19-11) took the opening tip-off and turned it into two points with a layup just seconds into the contest. Thanks to Good Hope’s stifling D, the basket turned out to be the home team’s last of the quarter.
Kaylee Maddox, Kayla Scott, Thomas and Bishop combined on an unanswered run to settle the score at 11-2 at the end of the first frame.
A Whisenant free throw was all she wrote for the Lady Raiders in the third quarter, making a 19-10 halftime cushion a far less comfortable 20-15 advantage with eight minutes to play.
Danville’s Sydni Shelton, a 6-foot-1 forward with serious skills inside, was a non-factor until sinking a 3-pointer from deep downtown to close the gap to just six with 2:14 left on the clock. Thomas responded with a steal and layup shortly thereafter, though, allowing the Red and White to rattle in just enough of their attempts from the charity stripe to head back home with a nine-point triumph.
Good Hope’s paltry 10-of-21 rate at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter was easy for coach Michael Oldacre to overlook with the area tourney trophy in hand.
“We should’ve put the game away sooner, but I thought it was a great defensive effort,” he said. “We had a good gameplan for them, and they’re a good ball team. We’ve been in this situation a lot of times this year, and we didn’t finish the game. Tonight, we finished and did what we needed to at the right time of the year.”
Added Thomas: “Even with the bad free-throw shooting, we still came out and played our defense. It won us the game.”
One Red and White player who didn’t struggle from the gimme distance was Whisenant. The junior was 5 of 7 at the charity stripe in the final frame and came away with several rebounds in the clutch.
Good Hope was 7 of 11 at the line through the first three quarters.
“Normally, we’re a little better shooting free throws, but she stepped up and made some big free throws at crucial times,” Oldacre said of Whisenant.
Maddox scored all four of her points in the first half, the same stretch where Scott and Alex Flanigan contributed two apiece.
Hannah George had seven points for Danville. Shelton and Tara Tuck were limited to five each.
The victory helped the Raiders avoid a sub-regional trip to No. 5 Winfield (25-2), which knocked off Hamilton 48-36 Saturday for the Area 14 crown. They’ll instead host Hamilton (16-10) next Thursday at 7 p.m. The winner will punch its ticket to the Northwest Regional Tournament, which is slated for Feb. 18-22 at Wallace State.
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 138 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.