by Rob Grubbs
The top teams from both the girls and boys sides of Region 3-AAAAA were in action Friday night at Starr’s Mill High School. The Fayette County boys (20-4) and the Starr’s Mill Lady Panthers (16-7) are both looking to finish strong as they head into the final week of the regular season. Both games were close throughout, but, in the end, they both earned hard-fought victories to stay at the top of the standings.
Not only did Lady Panther Head Coach Emily Sweeney have to deal with a pesky Lady Tiger team (8-15), but she also had to deal with the absence of her senior leader, Alyssa Angelo, who was held out with a minor ankle injury she suffered in the Whitewater game last week. Another distraction, albeit a good one, was the anticipation of Alice Anne Hudson breaking the all-time Starr’s Mill scoring record, which was only four points away to start the game.
History was made at the end of the first quarter. With the Panthers trailing 8-3, Victoria Fuller found Hudson open under the basket on an inbound pass and Hudson got the hoop and the foul. She stepped to the free-throw line with the all-time record and made the shot to bring Starr’s Mill to within two to end the quarter.
Having already passed her brother Drew, the school’s boys record holder, Hudson passed 2014 graduate Katie Wilson’s record of 1,062 points to stand alone at the top for the Panthers.
“I am so thankful that she has done it, and now she only has to focus on playing well and getting deep in the playoffs,” said Sweeney.
The Panthers used the three-ball in the second quarter to pull out to a 23-16 halftime lead. Hudson and Jaclyn Hester both made two, and Ashtyn Lally added one.
Lady Tiger Head Coach John Strickland asked his team to dig deep, and despite being down by 10 to start the fourth, they slowly began their own comeback. Sidney Sims was getting good penetration to the basket, and Kamille Carpenter and Ghylissa Knowles both hit shots down the stretch. With just 10 seconds remaining, the Tigers had possession down by three, but their final shot hit the front of the rim, and the Lady Panthers held on for the 47-44 win.
“I switched some things up on defense and just relied on some people to do some things we needed,” said Sweeney. “Not having Alyssa on defense hurts a lot, but our subs found a way to make it work.”
Hudson led all scorers on her night with 20 points, while Hester had 12, and Fuller stepped up big with 10 points and 5 assists. For the Lady Tigers, it was another close loss, which are starting to add up. Sims was their leading scorer with 14 points, eight of which came in the fourth quarter.
In the boys’ game, Coach Andre Flynn inserted sophomore Will Richard into the starting lineup against the tough Starr’s Mill (10-12) inside game of Jamaine Mann and Nate Allison. The Panthers were fighting for postseason standings and fought valiantly all night, but they could not tame the Tigers as they lost 54-39.
For the Tigers, their trademark 3-pointers were not falling, so they had to find something different. King Calhoun provided that spark with two lightning quick baskets in the third quarter to keep the Tigers in the lead.
“We isolated him and spread the floor, and King did a good job of getting to the basket two times in a row,” said Flynn. “I think that was the key to the game. It helped us separate a little bit. “
The Tigers slowly pulled away in the fourth, and, after a resounding dunk by Josh Dupree with two minutes remaining, they had their largest lead on the way to a 54-39 win.
Flynn was proud of Richard afterwards.
“We count on him to do a lot of stuff, he is coming around, I am awfully proud of him. He was really aggressive,” he said. “Right now, we need him to step up the rest of the year like he did tonight.”
Terrell Bradley led the Tigers with 15 points, and Richard finished with a double-double of 10 points and 14 rebounds. Mann led the Panthers with 15.
With weather cancellations earlier this week, the Tigers return to the court on Thursday against Whitewater, while Starr’s Mill hosts Griffin on Friday.
To see more photos, click here.