Lady Tigers edge Phil Campbell

By Staff
Mike Self, FCT Sports Editor
RED BAY – Over the past two seasons, no Franklin County team has posed a bigger threat to Red Bay than Phil Campbell.
On Tuesday, the Lady Bobcats came closer than ever to dealing the Lady Tigers their first loss to a county rival in six years.
How close?
"Three inches," Phil Campbell coach Amy Moss lamented after her team fell to Red Bay, 46-45. "We were three inches away from tying that game up and maybe winning it."
The Lady Bobcats (7-12, 2-4 Class 2A, Area 16) were trailing 44-41 with less than a minute remaining when senior forward Shelly Cooper nailed what appeared to be a game-tying three-pointer from the top of the key.
The officials quickly ruled, however, that Cooper's front foot-at least three inches of it, anyway-were touching the three-point line. The shot was ruled a two-point basket, and Red Bay (12-7, 3-1) still led by one.
When the dust finally settled on an eventful last 50 seconds, the Lady Tigers escaped with a one-point win and their hopes of hosting the area tournament still intact.
"This was a big win for us," Red Bay coach Donnie Roberts said. "We still have to win our last two area games and then hope that a coin flip goes our way."
Red Bay has area games left against Cherokee and Mars Hill, both at home. If the Lady Tigers win both games, they will tie Mars Hill for first place in the area standings at 5-1.
A coin flip would then decide who hosts the area tournament.
As Tuesday's game illustrated, however, Roberts and his young team are facing more immediate issues-namely taking better care of the basketball.
The Lady Tigers had 19 turnovers against Phil Campbell.
"We're beating ourselves with that one stat," Roberts said. "We have to cut down on our turnovers. We made some bad reads when we spread the floor tonight, and we made some passes that were just ridiculous.
"In the end, though, when our girls had to make plays in our four corners offense to win the game, they got the job done."
Phil Campbell took its last lead at 39-38 on a putback by Cooper with 5:50 left to play. Chelsey McWilliams responded with five straight points to put Red Bay back in front by four, and the Lady Tigers then spread the floor to run some clock with a little more than four minutes remaining.
Instead of immediately matching up and forcing Red Bay into action, the Lady Bobcats were content to catch their breath.
"We were tired, and that gave us a chance to rest," Moss said. "We were only down four, and there was plenty of time left. I think that worked to our advantage."
Red Bay ran nearly two minutes off the clock before turning the ball over. Phil Campbell eventually got within one on Cooper's jumper, but McWilliams capped off another big night against the Lady Bobcats by sinking two free throws with 26 seconds left.
Chasity Morgan made two free throws with seven seconds left to trim the lead back to one, but the Lady Tigers were able to run five seconds off the clock on the ensuing inbounds pass.
Red Bay missed a pair of free throws with two seconds left, but the Lady Bobcats were unable to get off a desperation heave before the final buzzer sounded.
McWilliams, who made all 14 of her shot attempts and scored 36 points in a win at Phil Campbell in mid-December, was double and triple-teamed in the post all night. Still, the junior center shot 11-for-16 and finished with a game-high 25 points and 13 rebounds.
"It was a hard-earned 25, that's for sure," Moss said. "She had 36 against us the first time, and our gameplan tonight was to hopefully make somebody else beat us."
The strategy worked in part as the Lady Tigers struggled to make perimeter shots all night.
"We have good outside shooters, but we just couldn't get anything to fall tonight," Roberts said. "Chelsey did a good job inside, and when they focused on her it helped open things up for Brittany [Scott]."
Scott finished with 10 points, but the Lady Tigers rode McWilliams down the stretch. She scored 17 points in the second half, including nine of Red Bay's 12 points in the fourth quarter.
Caitlin Stancil led Phil Campbell with 15 points despite playing barely two quarters due to foul trouble. She fouled out with more than 6:00 remaining.
Morgan and Cooper each added 12 points, and Jessica Taylor had six.
Both teams struggled to make shots in the first half, and Red Bay led 15-8 after a steal and layup by Scott midway through the second quarter.
Morgan heated up at that point, scoring nine points in an 11-4 run by Phil Campbell that tied the game 19-19. A basket by McWilliams gave Red Bay a two-point lead at the half.
"We tried to defend them differently than we did over at Phil Campbell," Roberts said. "We were hoping to be more effective with our press, but it didn't work. Chasity does a good job of using her speed and quickness to push the ball up the floor. Whenever we tried to trap her, we ended up chasing her. Eventually, we just had to get out of it."
Phil Campbell will host Hackleburg tonight.

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