Lady Bulldogs stave off Santa Fe
On Tuesday night, the Cornersville Lady Bulldogs cleared another hurdle in their quest to capture a fourth straight District 11-A regular season title when they defeated second place Santa Fe 44-35 at home to complete the season sweep of the Lady Wildcats.
Having beaten Santa Fe 48-43 on Dec. 16, Cornersville held a 28-17 lead early in the third quarter before the Lady Wildcats (11-11, 6-4 District) rallied to slice the deficit to 31-28 with 6:00 left in the fourth period.
The Lady Bulldogs (12-9, 8-1 District), however, righted the ship down the stretch and outscored Santa Fe 13-7 the rest of the way to record their eighth straight victory over the Lady Wildcats.
Thanks to Tuesday's triumph, Cornersville remained two games ahead of Richland in the District standings with only three conference games remaining.
Although CHS finished with only 12 field goals on 40 percent shooting and hit just 1-of-9 three-pointers due to Santa Fe's physical defensive play, Cornersville outscored the Lady Wildcats 19-4 at the foul line while attempting 26 more free throws (32-6) in the contest. The Lady Bulldogs committed 23 turnovers as well, but offset that by outrebounding Santa Fe 35-21.
CHS, meanwhile, turned in one of their better defensive performances of the season and limited the Lady Wildcats to 25 percent shooting (14-of-56), which included a 3-of-17 effort from beyond the arc, while forcing 18 Santa Fe turnovers.
"Our team is playing hard and is playing tough, but I can't accuse them of playing smart right now. We played too hard tonight to win by only nine points," said Cornersville coach Micah Landers. "These girls are really fun to coach because they're working so hard in practice and they're effort tonight was tremendous, but we're making too many mistakes. I can see the frustration on their faces sometimes. Any win is a good win though at this time of the year."
Freshman center Ashley Umbles posted a double-double and led the Lady Bulldogs with 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting to go along with 12 rebounds. Makenzie Hopkins followed Umbles with 11 points and four assists, while Kaitlyn Rogers and Ashley Warren added nine and seven points respectively with Rogers recording nine rebounds, four steals, three assists, and three blocked shots. Kaleigh Welch chipped in three points as well for Cornersville and Martha Jane McMasters and Brooke Holt both had one point.
Allison Pack paced the Lady Wildcats with 12 points, while Baylee Hemphill and Allie Lusk tallied eight and five points respectively.
Santa Fe jumped out to a 9-4 lead midway through the first quarter, but the Lady Bulldogs quickly counterpunched and put together a 13-2 run with the help of seven points from Hopkins and baskets from Umbles, Rogers, and Welch to pull ahead 17-11 early in the second period.
Following a three from Pack, which narrowed the gap to 17-14, Warren nailed a trey from the right wing and Umbles scored on a layup to make it 22-14 midway through the second quarter.
After the Lady Wildcats trimmed the deficit to 22-17 thanks to a three from Lusk, Cornersville tallied the final four points of the half on two free throws from Rogers and a Warren layup to take a 26-17 lead into the half, before Rogers hit a short turnaround jumper early in the third quarter to give CHS a 28-17 advantage.
Santa Fe used an 11-3 spurt to close the gap to 31-28 early in the fourth period, but the Lady Bulldogs rattled off 10 straight points thanks to an Umbles layup and eight free throws to push their lead to 41-28 with 1:29 left en route to claiming the 44-35 win.