By Tommie Kendall
After dropping 12-of-13 games in a rough mid-season stretch, the Henry County girls' basketball team has turned those disappointing losses into needed wins.
The Ladycats have won four of their previous five games and three in a row, including a Homecoming Night victory over Grant County (50-39) this past Friday which improved their record to 7-15 with six games remaining.
"With our young team, we knew it would be much later in the season before we got to where we wanted to be," Henry coach Todd Gilley said. "Now, we're looking forward to every game — we definitely like where we're at."
Gilley credits his team's turnaround to gaining needed varsity experience.
"Our players are mentally tougher now, which isn't easy to do," Gilley said. "After the Grant win, our girls weren't satisfied with the way they played. Earlier in the year, that wouldn't have happened — if we won, they would have been excited. That just shows how far we've come."
Jessica Booher, who has stepped into a go-to player role smoothly as a deadly-shooting freshman, led the Ladycats against the visiting Grant Lady Braves with a game-high 18 points. Kelsey Mings added 12 points for Henry, while Kelley Everidge scored eight, Brittany Crawford scored six, Taylor Clark scored three, Jenny Kozora scored two and Tyler Sadler scored one.
After the low-scoring opening quarter, Henry held a 6-4 lead over Grant, who entered the game sporting a 7-16 record. The Ladycats were out of sync on the offensive side of the ball early on, so called a timeout with 6:10 left in the first and down 2-0.
"I thought early in the game, we didn't handle the emotions from Homecoming very well, but we still played hard defensively so it was very low scoring," Gilley said. "After we calmed down and got into the flow of the game, we reacted to what was going on a whole lot better."
The short break helped the Ladycats as they came out of the huddle ready to roll.
The Cats regrouped, went in front and continued to stretch their advantage. With one minute remaining in the second quarter, Brittany Crawford's driving layup pushed the Cats lead to double digits, 21-11, for the first time. At the halftime break, Henry was ahead 21-13.
Grant used a 7-0 run in the first two minutes of the third quarter to pull within one point, 21-20. But the Ladycats went on their own run, which included a Kozora put-back basket, a Booher three-pointer, an Everidge inside basket and a Crawford put-back to put them ahead 30-20. Henry was ahead 32-25 after the third.
After a few questionable calls against Henry, Gilley got hit with a technical foul, which allowed Grant to swish two free throws and pull within five points, 35-30, with 4:21 remaining in the fourth. But the technical seemed to spark the Ladycats as they pulled away to the 11-point win down the stretch.
Sadler and Jean-Anne Moore fouled out of the game in the closing quarter, but their teammates were able to hold on for the win. Henry knocked down 11 free throws in the final seven minutes, including four from Everidge.
With 7.6 seconds left, Mings knocked down her first of two free-throw attempts. The sophomore then missed the second but got her own rebound with a few seconds left and scored to put Henry ahead by 11, 50-39, as time expired.
Henry 58, Beechwood 29: The Henry County Ladycats scored in double figures all four quarters last Tuesday night against the visiting Beechwood Lady Tigers, which added to a convincing 58-29 win.
Jessica Booher, known for her three-point shooting, finished with just one three-pointer but led the Ladycats in scoring with a game-high 21 points. Kelsey Mings added 16 points, Brittany Crawford scored nine and Jenny Kozora scored six, while Kelley Everidge, Jean-Anne Moore and Tyler Sadler chipped in two points each. For Beechwood, seven different players scored and none reached double digits.
Henry was in front 13-10 after the first quarter, 25-14 after the second and 39-24 after the third before cruising in for the 29-point victory.
The 58 points were the Ladycats highest of the season, and besides their 46-9 win over Eminence two weeks earlier, the 29-point winning spread was the most this season. Henry improved to 6-15 heading into Friday's showdown with Grant County, while Beechwood dropped to 5-10.
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