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Lady Cats show grit, win two

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By Greg Woods

The Henry County Lady Cats got two wins last week to get some momentum going heading into the final week of the season. The Lady Cats use disciplined play in the fourth quarter of both games to pull off come-from-behind wins.

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HCHS 42 Fairdale 36

After leading the Fairdale Lady Bulldogs for much of the game, the Henry County Lady Cats found themselves down by six points about halfway through the fourth period on Feb. 5th.

With momentum on their side, the Lady Bulldogs were pulling away when the Lady Cats rallied with a game-closing 13-1 run to pull out their eighth victory of the season.

Cheyenne Clark, who led the Lady Cats with 23 points, accounted for 9 of the final 13 as she repeatedly drove to the basket and scored on layups, or was fouled and hit free throws.

Colleen Coomes provided the other 4 points in the run including a big put back of a missed free throw that gave the Lady Cats breathing room late.

The game opened appropriately enough with two free throws from Clark. She would hit 15-of-22 free throws in the game.

After a 3-pointer gave Fairdale the lead, Kim Barmore hit from 15 feet to restore the Cats’ lead. But Fairdale got two consecutive 3-pointers to go up 9-4. From there the Cats went on a 9-0 run to lead 13-9 at the end of the first period.

Both teams found it hard to get a basket in the second period but Fairdale came to within 1 point at halftime at 18-17.

In the third period the Cats extended the lead to 4 points on an old-fashioned 3-point play by Clark. After the teams traded baskets Fairdale went on a 6-1 run, taking the lead 25-24.

Clark hit a free throw to tie, but Fairdale had momentum and went into the final quarter with a 30-27 lead.

Barmore and Clark each hit a free throw in the opening two minutes of the final quarter to help the Cats inch back to within 1 point, but the Lady Bulldogs immediately answered with a 3-pointer followed by a steal and layup to go up by 6 points with 4:30 to go. Coach Todd Gilley called a timeout to stop the run and help his team regain its composure.

The timeout worked as the Cats closed the game outscoring the Lady Bulldogs 13-1.

The Cats regained the lead at 38-36 on two Clark free throws with 2:20 left. On Henry County’s next possession Sydney Abrams called timeout to prevent a five-second call; a critical move.

After the timeout, Coomes had her big put back giving the Cats a 4-point lead.

The Cats got the ball back and ran the clock down to 17.9 seconds when Clark was fouled and hit two final free throws to clinch the game.

“The coaching staff and the kids were not pleased with how we played the first three quarters, but we were very pleased with the poise and discipline that it took to come from behind and win the game in the fourth quarter,” Henry coach Todd Gilley said

He was especially pleased with Coomes’ performance: 12 points and 12 rebounds. “We thought she was a beast inside for us,” he said.

Gilley said the key to the win was Clark’s ability to penetrate. “I thought, especially in the fourth quarter Cheyenne found gaps in the defense,” he said. “She was able to attack the goal and get to the foul line.”

Gilley was also pleased with Abrams’ and her freshman backup. “I thought Sydney was pivotal in the fourth quarter,” he said. “Their whole game plan was to attack her and it was unsuccessful. She also helped on their best player and she had one point in the fourth quarter. Sophie Hughes’ defense on her was amazing in the fourth quarter.”

HCHS 41, Spencer 34

Friday night the Lady Cats again gave up an early lead and found themselves fighting out of a hole going into the fourth quarter.

The Lady Cats trailed 30-26 early in the fourth after the Lady Bears scored from the baseline. But Barmore answered with a 3-pointer and Haley Bramblett hit 2 free throws to give the Cats the lead.

The Lady Bears took the lead one last time on their next possession, breaking Henry County’s press for an easy inside bucket. But the Lady Cats’ defense was stingy the rest of the way, allowing the Lady Bears just one more field goal on the night.

The Lady Cats finished the game with a 10-2 run for the 7-point win.

Coomes opened the game with a put back. It looked like Coomes might dominate inside, but she was hampered with foul trouble for most of the night and others had to step up and fill the void.

After a Spencer County 3-pointer, Barmore hit from inside the arc to put the Cats up 4-3.

The Lady Bears scored the next 3 points, before Clark went on a personal 8-0 run to give the Cats a 12-6 lead.

After a Spencer County put-back, Sydney Abrams hit a 3-pointer to give the Cats a 7-point lead and the Cats seemed to have momentum on their side. But the Lady Bears hit a 27-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer to pull within 4 going into the second quarter.

The Lady Cats had trouble finding the basket in the second quarter and lost their lead early as Spencer County went on a 10-1 run to open the period.

Trailing 21-16, the Cats got the final 4 points of the period on two Barmore free throws and an inside basket by Rachel Vegh. The Lady Cats now trailed 21-20 at the half.

Both teams upped their defensive intensity in the third period as the Cats held Spencer County to 7 points; but the Lady Cats got only 6 points themselves.

That set up the Lady Cats’ second straight comeback win. The key event in the final stretch came with 4:27 to go.

Coomes, the Cats’ only inside presence was on the bench with four fouls. The Lady Cats came out and ran 1:37 off the clock before Barmore was fouled and sank both free throws to give the Lady Cats a 5-point lead with just 2:39 to go. Coomes returned and stayed on the floor until fouling out with 4 seconds remaining and the outcome no longer in doubt.

“We were pleased that our younger players understood the time and situation,” Gilley said. “As long as they weren’t going to come out and guard us, we were just going to take care of the basketball. Really, we were just trying to get them to go man-to-man.”

Gilley liked the decision-making he saw from his team in the last two games. “The last two games we were very aggressive and in the last two minutes had to be very disciplined. That led to two wins,” he said, “In the last three games we have shot 80 free throws to our opponents 21. That tells me we have been more aggressive offensively and playing better defensively.”