Hot third quarter sends Belgreen girls to finals

By Staff
Mike Self, FCT Sports Editor
PHIL CAMPBELL – Deborah Billingham sparked a big third-quarter run and Amy Smith made two crucial baskets down the stretch on Thursday as Belgreen advanced to the finals of the Franklin County Tournament with a 53-46 win over Phil Campbell.
The Lady Bulldogs trailed by six at halftime before rallying in the second half to earn a spot opposite Red Bay in last night's finals.
"This was a wonderful win for us," said Belgreen coach Shauna Humphries, whose team had lost the last five meetings with Phil Campbell. "We really needed it. We didn't play a bad first half, and when we went in at halftime I just told the girls not to let up. I knew that if they kept playing hard and giving everything they had, we would come out on top."
The Lady Bulldogs opened the second half on fire, going on a quick 10-2 run to take a 33-31 lead. Phil Campbell surged back in front on two free throws and a basket by Caitlin Stancil, but that's when Billingham began to assert herself.
The sophomore point guard closed the quarter with three straight baskets and then opened the fourth with two more, accounting for 10 straight Belgreen points as the Lady Bulldogs opened a 43-37 lead.
"Deborah has come a long way this season," Humphries said. "She's young, and she's had to carry a heavy load as the point guard. She really stepped up tonight and played magnificent basketball. We couldn't ask for anything more from her."
The Lady Bobcats got back within one early in the fourth quarter, but a putback by Keri Metcalf pushed Belgreen's lead to 46-43. The lead was down to two with less than two minutes remaining when Smith scored in the paint to make it 49-45.
After a free throw by Metcalf, Smith took a nice feed from Billingham and scored again to push the lead to seven at 52-45 with just 40 seconds left to play.
Phil Campbell led by as many as eight in the first half, thanks to some hot shooting by Shelly Cooper.
The senior guard made three first-half treys and scored 13 points, helping the Lady Bobcats take a 29-23 lead into the break.
Humphries said the Lady Bulldogs focused their defensive game plan on preventing penetration into the lane, particularly by Phil Campbell junior guard Chasity Morgan.
Morgan torched Belgreen for 28 points in a 43-41 win on November 16, but she finished with just nine on Thursday. Seven of those came in the span of less than a minute late in the second quarter.
"We played them a man-to-man defense the first time, and they really hurt us with penetration," Humphries said. "Their point guard was able to drive inside a lot and get some easy baskets. We switched to a 1-3-1 zone tonight, and we really focused on keeping her out of the lane."
The strategy seemed to be effective, as Phil Campbell's offense bogged down in the second half.
The Lady Bobcats were out-scored 16-6 in the third quarter and managed just 17 points total in the second half after scoring a season-high 85 points in Tuesday's victory over Vina.
Stancil finished with 18 points to lead Phil Campbell, and Cooper added 15. Alissa Smith had four.
Billingham led Belgreen with 14 points, and Mary Billingham added 11. She and Kellie Oliver each had two baskets early in the third quarter to help jumpstart the Lady Bulldogs' big second half.
Oliver finished with nine points, and Monica Smith had seven. Amy Smith added six, and Metcalf had four.