by Raynard Churchwell
Region play is in full swing, and Friday night Fayette County High was the place to be as the Tigers hosted their cross-town foes, the Whitewater Wildcats.
The early game between the Lady Tigers and Wildcats was a battle for the ages. Both teams left their hearts out on the court, but it was Fayette County that would come away with the 58-51 overtime victory.
The Lady Tigers were able to end their 8-game losing streak with the win and keeps them in the thick of the chase at 7-11 overall and 4-2 in region play. The loss for Whitewater drops them to 5th place in the region standings.
Fayette County controlled of the game for three quarters. They commanded the tempo of the game by jumping out to an early lead and came out with great defensive execution, troubling Whitewater with their zone defense.
With their backs against the wall, the Wildcats kept fighting and were able to erase Fayette County’s 10-point fourth quarter lead. Jada Claude locked in on offense, scoring with her jump shot and in the paint to slice the deficit down. Fayette’s Ghylissa Knowles kept the Cats at bay with key 3-pointers anytime the game looked to be in danger of slipping away.
Whitewater senior guard Courtney Smith hit a huge contested 3-pointer with six seconds remaining to tie the game at 43 at the end of regulation.
Both teams came out very aggressive in overtime, but in the end, Fayette County’s ability to penetrate the paint and knock down their free throws was enough for them to come out with the victory.
Fayette County point guard Sydney Sims had her way with the Wildcats as she led all scorers with 27 points. Knowles followed with 14 points.
For Whitewater, Claude posted 26 points and 15 rebounds, and Smith added 19 points and 8 rebounds.
“We had good energy coming out of the gate” said Fayette County Coach John Strickland. “We closed out the game being really smart. We hit our free throws late in the game, and when they pressed us, we were able to get some easy baskets, and I felt like that was key.”
Whitewater shook off the tough loss and rebounded with a 62-39 rout of Riverdale on Saturday where they allowed just one point in the first quarter and six total in the first half. Claude led the way with 22 points and 14 rebounds, and Smith added 16 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds.
The boys game did not see as exciting a finish as the top-ranked Tigers took care of the Wildcats. After a hard-fought first half, the Tigers were able to pull away in stunning fashion as they would win the game by a score of 83-62.
The win gives Fayette County an impressive record of 16-2 on the season, and they remain undefeated in region play. With the loss, Whitewater breaks even on the season with a record of 9-9. The Wildcats are now 2-3 in region play.
The game was a tale of two halves. In the beginning, both Fayette and Whitewater came out with a very physical style of play featuring hard fouls and some trash talking. Fayette County jumped out to a quick 11-3 lead, but Whitewater fought back, ending the quarter on a 17 to 9 run to trail just 20-18.
In the second quarter, the physical play continued, as strong defense led to low shooting percentages. Fayette County ended the quarter with some momentum brought forth by Joshua Dupree’s two strong slam dunks, and the Tigers held a four-point lead of 34-30 at halftime.
In the second half, the Tigers came out much more aggressive with great defense and slam dunks. They also improved their ball movement and were able to knock down key 3-point shots. Whitewater had no answers, as the Tigers exploded for 29 points in the third quarter to build up a 19-point lead at 63-44.
The 4th quarter didn’t get any better for the Wildcats, as the Tigers continued their onslaught. Fayette County sat their starters and let the bench players get playing time in the waning minutes.
Fayette County’s JeKobe Coleman was named Player of the Game with 19 points and 5 rebounds. Joshua Dupree and Ricky Knight, Jr. also helped the Tigers earn the win by scoring 15 points each.
K’won Bush led the Wildcats with 18 points.
The Wildcats bounced back on Saturday with a 56-53 win over Riverdale, keyed by 22 points from CJ Jackson. They’ll take aim at two in a row on Tuesday at home against McIntosh.
The Tigers looked to continue their win streak against the Griffin Bears Tuesday night, while Whitewater hosted McIntosh.
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