SPORTS >>Wildcat girls top Tigers, advance
By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor
The Harding Academy ladies scratched and clawed their way to another win in the White County Classic Thursday night in Pangburn. The Lady Wildcats slipped past the host school 45-43 to earn a trip to Saturday’s final against Rose Bud.
The victory was a big one, and the tone of the game was probably a precursor to the two conference games HA and Pangburn are scheduled to play against each other later this year. Academy assistant coach Rusty Garner was pleased to escape with a win.
“That is one of the toughest places to play that we go to,” Garner said. “And Pangburn is very good this year. They’re loaded with guards and there’s going to be some major battles now that we’ve got them in our conference.”
The game ended with a series of made free throws, a fitting end to a game that featured 56 foul shots between the two teams, but an aberRation in a game that saw Academy make just 13 of 26, and Pangburn had 18 of 30 foul shots made.
With 46 seconds remaining, Academy’s Traci Wynn hit two freebies to put her team up 43-41. Academy then fouled Pangburn’s Kayla Sandersfeld with 20 seconds left. She hit both shots to tie it up.
Sandersfeld then fouled Katie Koch, who nailed both of her free throws with six seconds remaining to set the final margin.
Pangburn attempted a 30-plus-foot jumper at the buzzer that wasn’t close.
“It was an ugly game, but that’s really what we wanted,” Garner said. “We didn’t want to get to running with them and into a transition game. Their guards are too many and too good. We wanted to slow the pace and we did that. We would have liked to hit more free throws, but we got the type of game we wanted.”
They almost got too much of a bogged-down pace. Three Lady Wildcats fouled out, including both leading scorers Jennifer Kee and Liz Ashley. Kee finished with 14 points and Ashley scored 11. Kara White also fouled out for Academy, while the Lady Tigers saw two players foul out.
“We go six, maybe seven deep,” Garner said. “We were already to the point of playing people that don’t play much. And we had two more with four fouls. If they would have blown the whistle on us one more time I don’t know what we would have done.”
The biggest lead of the game was held by Pangburn at halftime, and it wasn’t much.
Lady Tiger Brittany Reeves hit a running jumper from just outside the lane at the end of the second quarter to give her team a 19-15 lead at intermission.
That was the only time in the game either team led by more than three points.
“It was just a battle,” Garner said. “It’s so tough to win there, but I thought our girls did a great job of handling that atmosphere. We only had six turnovers, so we’re very pleased with that.”
The win lifted the Lady Wildcats to 4-1 on the year, while dropping Pangburn to 12-2.
The Academy boys lost to the Tigers in the other semifinal. The Wildcats dropped their first game despite having six players, including two starters, still on the football team, but they dropped it badly. The Tigers ran away with a 77-58 win.
To add to Academy’s trouble, leading scorer Alex Beene played with an injured ankle. He hit five three pointers and scored 19 points, but couldn’t keep up on defense against the Tigers’ extremely fast-paced style.
“I played him and probably shouldn’t have,” Academy boys coach Rick Beene said. “Defensively he just couldn’t do anything and they were really pushing. They get up and down the court really well and they shot it really well. We just played bad too. It wasn’t very pretty.”
Junior forward Lance Carr led all scorers with 27 points.
“He and Alex combined for about 90 percent of our points, and we’re going to have to be more balanced than that,” Beene said. “We had been in our first two games, but not in this one for some reason. We’ll get better once we get everybody here. We’ve only got seven players total right now and that makes it really tough.”