Leader Blues

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

SPORTS>>Abundant Life girls and boys post wins over Oak Grove

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

One thing hasn’t changed from last season. The Abundant Life Lady Owls still pack a mean one-two punch with Hannah Pastor and Brittany Sharp.

The two seniors combined for 50 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and 10 steals in Abundant Life’s 80-49 win over Oak Grove on Monday night in Sherwood.

What has changed for the Lady Owls is the supporting cast. It’s not just Pastor and Sharp anymore.

“Yeah, we definitely have more we can call on,” said Abundant Life head coach Justin Moseley, whose club bounced back from a tough conference loss at St. Joseph’s to improve to 9-4. “Camryn Sharp had a really good game for us tonight.”

Camryn Sharp, a sophomore post player, came up big on the blocks, pouring in 15 points and grabbing eight rebounds to go along with two blocks.

It was an entertaining first half, with Pastor and the Sharp sisters trading baskets with the Lady Hornets’ Mercedes Gaines, who scored 24 of her 30 points before halftime.

“They like to get up and down the court like we do,” Moseley said. “We didn’t play great defense but (Gaines) is really tough.”

Abundant Life threatened to make a rout of it early when it raced to a 22-7 lead after a 15-2 run midway through the opening period. But behind four consecutive Gaines buckets, Oak Grove climbed to within 22-19 a minute into the second period. But it was pretty much all Abundant Life from that point on. Brittany Sharp hit a pair of free throws and scored along the baseline, and Pastor scored twice inside to extend the lead to nine.

Erin Williamson’s three from the left corner pushed the lead to 15 with 3:11 left in the half. Pastor closed the half with an end-to-end drive that allowed the Lady Owls to carry a 52-35 lead into the locker room.

It was more of the same early in the second half, with Brittany Sharp hitting a three, scoring on a spin move and getting a steal and a layup to push the lead to 62-39. Her rebound basket to end the third quarter made it 77-46 and got the continuous clock running.

Pastor led the way with 26 points, four rebounds, five assists and six steals. Time and again, she forced the action, weaving through the lane for buckets inside.

“She’s just so quick and she jumps so well,” Moseley said. “And now she’s added an outside shot that she didn’t have last year.”

Brittany Sharp had 24 points, seven rebounds, three assists and four steals. Sophomore Sydney Venus scored eight points and Savannah Lancaster added five points and six boards. Andrea Venus pulled down eight rebounds as Abundant Life enjoyed a 55-30 rebounding advantage.

The Lady Owls made 27 of 63 shots, including 6 of 13 from beyond the arc.

The Owls overcame 22 turnovers, including a pair of critical ones in the game’s final minute, to hold on and improve to 8-5.

One of those turnovers, with 25 seconds remaining, gave the Hornets the ball back trailing by a single point. But Oak Grove returned the favor with an errant pass with 11 seconds left and Mike Steele hit a pair of free throws to extend the lead to three.

The Hornets got off a long, contested three as time expired but it missed.

“When every one of their players is faster than every one of yours, it’s kind of hard to get in a rhythm offensively,” said Abundant Life head coach Tim Ballard. “Oak Grove is a good team. It was kind of an ugly game, but when you have the uglier team, you have to win ugly.”

It was the Owls’ first win over the Hornets after dropping five straight to them over the summer.

Abundant Life overcame poor shooting in the first half to trail only 27-26. They Owls made only 10 of 30 shots and missed all four of their three-point tries.

Ballard went to his bench often, with the starters struggling to shoot and to hold on to the ball.

“I just got tired of looking at the starters getting outworked and outhustled,” he said. “The second group got in there and made a run for it. They got several stops in a row and got some buckets.”

Ballard said he tries to play at least nine each game, and often as many as 11.

Dane Lottner led the Owls with 19 points, while Terrell Ghant added 10. Steele had eight and George Herring six.

“Oak Grove’s defense is pretty good,” Ballard said. “(Point guard Ghant) has played the two guard his whole life, and he’s done a great job for us. But he’s still new to the point and he’s still learning when to go, when not to go. But (the Hornets are) so fast, it doesn’t matter if you have a plan, they’re going to bother you.”

The Owls are just now coming together as a full team after playing without leading scorer Lottner for five games, Ghant for three and Dustin Keathley for two. Ballard said he’s more concerned with being 1-0 in the conference, especially after going on the road to beat previously unbeaten St. Joseph’s last Friday night, 56-50.

Lotter and Mike Stramiello led the way with 14 points apiece, while Herring added 13. Lottner got all his points in the first half and fouled out in the second half.