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Lady Eagles take county title; Minettes suddenly strong

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By Mike Forster

The Liberty girls? basketball team did its best to try and ruin Senior Night for the Lady Cavs. Forest prevailed 35-28, in a nail-biter that was nowhere near reminiscent of the earlier year matchup. In that game, Forest pounded the Minettes 49-31.

?(The Minettes) weren?t coming here to bear gifts, have cake and carry balloons,? said Forest Head Coach Tom Brown of the Liberty plan to rain on his seniors? parade. ?We were fortunate to get out of this one with a win.?

The Minettes played with poise in the first half, building up a seven point lead after Joy Thompson and Kenara Hurt teamed up to make three free throws.

Forest?s Jordan Price, playing probably the best game of her three-year career, kept her team close as she slashed for two consecutive layups.

At the half, the teams were knotted at 18 apiece.

For the game, the lead would alternate 10 times, but the only one that really mattered was when Mandy Dix made two consecutive layups of her own to put the Lady Cavs up 32-28 with under two minutes to go. A series of deliberate fouls gave Forest the chance to build the final score.

If you saw the Minettes earlier this season, here?s advice for you: fuggit about it. As Head Coach Andrew Kelso had hoped, his team is playing, by far, its best basketball at the end of the season. Now poised to make their mark in the tournament, the Minettes have to be considered the District?s wildcard.

No longer is this the team that crumbled before superior talent. Suddenly, there is a marked confidence in the way the team handles and moves the ball. There is a court presence that was not evident in the early goings of the season.

?Defensively, we played them well,? said Kelso. ?You can?t play it much better against a team like (Forest).?

The Minettes are certainly worth another look.

Brown was also pleased with his team?s defense. ?That?s what this team is all about,? he stated.

On the offensive side, the team was led by Price, who scored 11, including two game-clinching free throws at the end that were all net. She also bagged 6 rebounds. ?I am so proud of Jordan,? said Brown.

Dix added 10 points while Liberty was paced by Jennifer Coleman?s 10.

Forest is seeking to pick up a win in the tourney opener and return to the Regionals, having missed them last year. Having allotted significant playing time to all nine of his players, Brown has solid depth.

A team that once seemed to revolve around one player (Dix) has matured into a squad that can beat you a number of ways.

Lady Cavs give Eagles a start

That squad almost beat high-powered Staunton River, but ultimately fell to the Eagles 47-37.

?We had our chances,? said Coach Brown. ?That?s all you can ask for against a team like this.? The Lady Cavs missed 10 layups over the course of the game.

Staunton River seemed to have the game in hand, maintaining a double digit lead throughout much of the contest. However, Jessica Quarles fought fiercely for a rebound which she put back for two, and Rachel McKeague hit a trey from two o?clock on the arc to bring the Lady Cavs to within 7 points at the start of the fourth.

At that point, senior Caitlin Falls stepped in to lead her team. Scoring on an inbounds pass for the layup and hack, taking a charge from Tie Harrison and putting back a shot from Kelly Jackson, Falls helped re-establish a 12 point lead. ?Caitlin stepped it up when we needed it,? said Head Coach Kim Jones.

Forest wasn?t dead, though. Mandy Dix added a pair of slashing layups and a dish to Harrison for a close range bank shot that pulled the Lady Cavs to within six.

But Lakisha Craghead ended the Forest dream of an upset when she darted in front of a Lady Cav backcourt pass and scooted in for layup try. Though she missed the shot, she was fouled and the feisty junior nailed both shots, effectively putting the game out of reach.

The big difference from when the last time these two squared off (won 52-35 by River) is that the Lady Cavs did not look intimidated by the aggressive style of play the Eagles bring. Jessica Quarles mixed it up in the paint and Renae Brooks had 8 blocked shots. The Eagles only out-rebounded Forest 34-33.

Staunton River turned in its usual team effort. ?We had a lot of emotions,? said Jones, of the Senior Night activities prior to the game. ?I had to get (my team) to calm down.?

Also bringing excitement to the squad was the presence of coaches from Bluefield College (looking at a couple of Eagles) and Randolph College (where Allison Huddleston will play next season).

The team has truly morphed into one that brings balance. ?Different people come through for us at different times,? said Jones. Reflecting that observation, the Eagles were led by Talika Robinson (11 points), Craghead (10), Jackson (9) and Falls (9).

With the win, the Eagles finish at 10-2 in the District. The Lady Cavs take fourth place with a 6-6 record.