Cougars break drought; will play Laurens next

Dorman's Alexis Gilliam retrieves a loose ball ahead of Northwestern's Mary Kate DuBard, left, and Najee Thompson.
Dorman's Alexis Gilliam retrieves a loose ball ahead of Northwestern's Mary Kate DuBard, left, and Najee Thompson.

YORK -- York broke through with a playoff win Tuesday, beating Byrnes 59-44. The win broke a three-year string of first-round playoff losses.

York (19-5) will travel to Laurens on Friday.

Getting to the next round was the goal for York coach Paula Blackwell. The win wasn't pretty but sure felt good.

"The last three years we've been out in the first round. We're tired of going home early," Blackwell said after the game, surrounded by well-wishers.

"We missed a lot of free throws, but our intensity on defense was the difference. We made it hard on (Byrnes). They are a good team and play in a tough region. I think their only losses were against Top 10 teams."

Blackwell ranted in front of her bench in the first half, urging her players to play with more intensity. York led 25-17 at the half but gave up some easy baskets.

Blackwell's message was apparently loud and clear during the intermission. Her Cougars came out in the third quarter ready to play some defense. They forced turnovers on the first three possessions and ripped off a 9-0 run to double up the Rebels, 34-17, with 6:04 left in the quarter.

Senior point guard Nardia Robbins said Blackwell talked about playing hard in the second half.

"Coach wanted us to keep our intensity up," Robbins said. "She wanted us to play hard, box out and push the ball up the court."

Robbins led York with 16 points. She added eight rebounds and four assists. Keshia Thacker scored 15 points and Tikierra Anderson added 11.

York pushed the lead to 19 points in the fourth quarter, 50-29. Freshman Hikeya Davis wowed the crowd by converting two steals into layups in a 10-second span to highlight an 8-0 surge.

Byrnes (18-7) was led by point guard Ashley Holland's 18 points. Post Tiffanie Adair entered the game averaging more than 10 points and 10 rebounds per contest but was held scoreless until midway through the fourth quarter.

Robbins, who has played on the varsity since the eighth grade, waited a long time for the win.

"It feels so good I wanted to cry," she said.

• GREAT FALLS 49, WAGENER-SALLEY 33 -- At Great Falls, the night got off to an inauspicious start, as Wagener-Salley's bus broke down, delaying tipoff an extra hour. It mattered little to the outcome, as top-seeded Great Falls easily won its opening-round matchup in the Class A playoffs.

The Lady War Eagles (10-11) arrived about 10 minutes prior to the game's re-scheduled start, giving the Lady Red Devils (12-10) ample time to shoot around and prepare for the game. Both team's routines were a little skewed, but once the players settled in, the matchup played out as expected.

The Lady War Eagles showed no signs of their rushed start, jumping out to a quick seven-point lead late in the first quarter behind hot shooting from behind the 3-point arc.

Trailing 12-5, Great Falls senior point guard Shardae Lynn took over. Lynn drove the lane for a quick two. She was fouled but failed to convert the bonus shot. Despite the miss, the bucket changed the momentum of the game.

Lynn's shot spurred an 8-0 run capped off from yet another shot by Lynn. The guard made a great play on defense and drove coast-to-coast for an uncontested shot that gave the Lady Devils a one-point margin.

Wagener-Salley quickly called timeout to stop the bleeding and responded with a 6-2 run after Whitney Johnson hit her second 3-pointer of the half.

What happened next may have been a result of sitting in a stalled bus for over an hour, but more likely came because of Great Falls' incredible defensive pressure.

Johnson's 3-pointer came with just under five minutes remaining in the second period. They were the last three points by the Lady Eagles until the 3:33 mark in the third period. Johnson finished the game with a game-high 20 points, but was only one of three Lady Eagles on the scorebook.

Great Falls, while never really shooting well, dominated the offensive boards and reeled off 18 consecutive points to put the game out of reach.

Great Falls' depth came into play as the game progressed, as the Lady Eagles had no answer for posts Sasha Hopson and Nedra Lynn. Hopson ended the game with eight points, but contributed more by pulling down 14 rebounds.

Nedra Lynn led the Lady Devils with 17 points, many coming from Shardae Lynn's passes into the post.

Once the Lady Devils' defense started covering Wagener-Salley's outside shots, Great Falls cruised into the next round.

"It was not a pretty game but we will sure take the win," Great Falls coach Jeff Holmes said. "We never shot the ball well, but our defense played well when we needed to. I think the delay in the start time got both teams out of their rhythm, and may have affected our shooting somewhat.

"I'd rather us shoot poorly this game than in the second round, and hopefully as we go deeper into the playoffs. We came together in the end and hopefully can start better Friday night."

The Lady Devils will host the winner of the Whitmire-Ware Shoals game at 7 p.m. on Friday, providing no vehicles break down.

York59Byrnes44Great Falls49W.-Salley33