Leader Blues

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

SPORTS>>Harding Academy girls roar back for win

Leader sportswriter

The Harding Academy Lady Wildcats did not have go-to post player Ariel English in the game as much as they would have liked, but benefited from her 10-point performance in the fourth quarter when it counted the most.

English sat out more than half the game with foul trouble before leading the Lady Wildcats (3-1, 2-0 in 2-3A Conf.) to a 37-31 win over cross-town rival Riverview on Friday night at Harris Gym.

“Ariel picked up the two quick fouls early,” said Harding Academy coach Rusty Garner. “And our other post players did an admirable job of helping us out to get to the half. It took us to the fourth quarter for us to be able to leave her out there long enough to establish some post play.”

The Lady Raiders controlled the game with a slow pace in the first half, when the two teams combined for only eight field goals — two of those coming in the final 1:28.

The rivalry lived up to its billing in the second half, however, with physical play in the paint by both teams. Riverview’s quickness and outside shooting eventually gave way to the dominant sizeof Lady Wildcat post players English and Megan Pack, whose key rebounding on the defensive glass limited Riverview’s second-chance attempts in the third quarter.

A three pointer by Ciarra Farmer to start the second half gave Harding Academy its first lead of the game at 17-16, and Emily Davis extended that lead moments later with a basket with 5:25 left in the third.

The Lady Raiders had one more swing of momentum in the middle of the third quarter, starting with a basket by Emily Harris to cut Harding Academy’s lead to one.

Riverview leading scorer Kandice Leggitt followed that with a pair of free throws at the 5:05 mark that put the Lady Raiders back in front 20-19, and a transition score by Emily Chapman increased the advantage to three.

Leggitt doubled that lead with a three pointer at the 3:20 mark, and Casie Clause gave Riverview the biggest lead of the game for either team with a long jumper to make it 27-20 heading into the fourth quarter.

“We really wanted to keep them at bay,” Garner said. “Give them a shot and then go rebound. I thought we did a much better job of rebounding in the second half. For them, I thought they did a great job of dictating the tempo. We want to run, play fast and put it up in the 50s and 60s. They controlled the tempo for the duration, and that’s a credit to them.

“We’re still trying to figure ourselves out. It’s early, we’ve got a long way to go. When we got down by (seven), the girls didn’t look defeated, they looked determined. I thought they battled their rear ends off in the fourth quarter.”

The Lady Wildcats had only eight rebounds at the end of the first half, but finished with 30 for the game.

Harding Academy cut into the lead quickly on the strength of Farmer and English at the start of the final frame. Farmer’s 4 of 6 performance at the line in the first three minutes, along with three inside shots for English had the Lady Wildcats back on top 30-29 at the 3:42 mark, which seemed to throw Riverview off its deliberate-style game plan.

The Lady Wildcats were able to contain Leggitt in the final period, limiting her to one point while Harding Academy went on to outscore the Lady Raiders 17-4.

English led the Lady Wildcats with 16 points and eight rebounds, with 10 of those points in the fourth quarter. Anna Bangs added eight points, and Farmer finished with seven points.

For Riverview, Leggitt led the way with 11 points. Casie Clause added seven points, and Harris had six. Chapman rounded out scoring for the Lady Raiders with five.