Lady Bulldogs notch first round District 11A win
Championship seasons are often put together by everyone and everything falling into the right place at the right time and judging by the outcome of the District 11A Tournament opener against longtime rival Columbia Academy (11-15) at Cornersville on Monday night, the Lady Bulldogs (13-10) seem primed for one of the magical runs.
Cornersville, who struggled with its shots and ball control down the stretch to finish in a four-way tie for second place, seemed to put its late season struggles against the top teams in the district into the rear view mirror by taking a convincing 22-7 halftime lead before cruising to a 43-29 victory over Columbia Academy.
"It was all about effort and defense," Cornersville coach Peyton Newton stated. "We knew we had to play tough defense. We had a game plan of stopping their two studs, Kenzie Hobbs (six points) and Grace Gerloch (10 points). I won't say we stopped them because they still did some things, but we made them earn everything they got."
The Cornersville defense was relentless against Columbia Academy, holding the Maury County squad to its lowest point total of the season in stark contrast to the 55 points the Lady Bulldogs gave up to CA in a late January loss.
"The last time we played them was a really bad week," Sam Prosser, who finished with 12 points and four rebounds, said. "We had two other tough games (Santa Fe, Richland) that week that we lost and that played a big factor."
"I think we came out ready to shoot tonight," Prosser added. "We were definitely shooting good shots right off the bat. We also had our student section cheering us on and that definitely got us going."
Columbia Academy was unable to find an answer for junior forward Morgan Terry, who led the Lady Bulldogs with 18 points, 11 rebounds, and two backbreaking first half 3-pointers. Senior guard Madison Hopkins led the team with seven assists to go along with two points and three rebounds and Taylor Powers added three points, five rebounds, and two steals.
The Salsman sisters (Carly and Payton) each knocked down a 3-pointer and Sarah Beth Prosser filled the stat sheet with two points, three rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal.
"We definitely had our heads right and we told ourselves we weren't done yet," Terry said. "We were all in for each other and our fans. We put everything we had into that game and we all showed out tonight."
The game started with a Terry layup and a Sam Prosser free-throw, but Hobbs answered with a triple to tie the game back up at 3-3.
Prosser knocked down a trey with 4:21 left in the opening frame to push the lead to 9-3 before Carly Salsman drained a 3-pointer for a 12-3 lead.
Terry knocked down a foul line jumper to extend the lead to 14-3 before Paige Kleinke added two free throws to trim the deficit to 14-5.
Terry sent the crowd into a frenzy by hitting back-to-back triples and Cornersville ballooned its lead to 20-5 before a Columbia Academy bucket changed to score to 20-5.
Terry answered again by scoring on a layup with 25 seconds remaining and the Lady Bulldogs went into halftime holding a 22-7 edge.
The Lady Bulldogs continued its inspired performance into the third quarter and when Powers knocked down an open triple a minute into the second half for the 25-7 lead, the Lady Bulldog players and fans had a feeling the night belonged to the girls from Cornersville.
In the locker room at halftime our coaches were telling us that the first three minutes of the third quarter was going to determine the outcome of this game," Terry explained. "And when Taylor Powers hit a three starting the second half I knew we had it in the bag."
Columbia Academy cut the lead down to 20 on a Gerloch runner in the lane, but on a night when everything seemed to go Cornersville's way, freshman Payton Salsman knocked down a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 36-13 and despite a few late mishaps against the CA press the Lady Bulldogs won the right to play Richland (20-6) in Thursday night’s semifinal at Mt. Pleasant.
"When we started the season we said it's not a goal to get the district championship, it's an expectation," Newton said. "When you play ball here you expect to get a district championship. It doesn't matter who it's against, (Richland) beat us twice during the season, but that's our next game so that's where our mind is going."
Columbia Academy 5 2 11 11-29
Cornersville 14 8 16 5-43
Columbia Academy (29): Grace Gerloch 10, Paige Kleinke 10, Kenzie Hobbs 6, Savannah Alsup 3
3-point goals (2): Hobbs, Alsup
Cornersville (43): Morgan Terry 18, Sam Prosser 12, Payton Salsman 3, Carly Salsman 3, Taylor Powers 3, Sarah Beth Prosser 2, Madison Hopkins 2
3-point goals (6): Terry 2, C. Salsman, P. Salsman, Sam Prosser, Powers
Halftime score: Cornersville 22, Columbia Academy 7