SPORTS>>Searcy girls hold off Jacksonville for win
Special to The Leader
The Lady Red Devil defense started hot, and the Lady Lion offense was cold. The result was a big early lead for the visiting underdogs, but the hosting Searcy girls slowly and steadily came back to claim a 46-37 win Friday night at SHS.
Searcy didn’t score in the first six minutes of the game. Its first points came from a free throw by Kristen Celsor.
Thanks in large part to an aggressive Jacksonville defense, Searcy hit just 1 of 16 shot attempts from the floor, and was one of four from the foul line. The Lady Red Devils, meanwhile, hit six of 12 attempts and held a 13-3 lead after one quarter.
Jacksonville’s lead remained in the nine- to 10-point range for the better part of the second quarter, but Searcy then took its turn to apply some pressure.
The pressure, as well as several second-chance opportunities, sparked a 9-2 run late in the second quarter that turned an 18-10 margin into a 20-19 score by halftime.
“I thought we did a much better job in the second quarter of getting to the offensive boards,” Searcy coach Michelle Birdsong said. “We didn’t rebound very well early. We did a much better job of that starting in the second quarter and I thought that made the difference.”
The Lady Lions got hot from the outside in the third quarter. Searcy tied the game at 22 apiece in the first minute of the second half. A three-pointer by Celsor gave the hosts their first lead at 25-22 with six minutes left in the third quarter.
Jacksonville tied the game again shortly thereafter, and the two teams stayed tied for almost three minutes. Searcy broke the drought with a 5-0 run that forced Jacksonville to take its first timeout with 1:49 left in the third quarter. Searcy’s Tara Gardner hit a three after the break, but Jacksonville came back to pull within 35-29 by the start of the fourth quarter.
The Lady Red Devils went with full-court pressure to start the fourth. That created turnovers and Jacksonville capitalized. Five points by Sherice Randel and a bucket by Jessica Lanier went unanswered as the Lady Devils took the lead back at 36-35 with a 6:35 left in the game. From there it was all Searcy as Jacksonville would manage just two more points the rest of the way. Searcy closed the game with a 12-2 run that was almost entirely on putbacks and free throws.
“We’ve got some young guards handling the ball and we’ve had trouble handling the press,” Birdsong said. “Once we got through it a couple times and got a couple of shots to go down, I think we settled down and did a much better job.”
Neither team took very good care of the ball. Jacksonville committed 19 turnovers while Searcy gave it up 20 times. The rebounding, as Birdsong recognized, was resoundingly in her team’s favor. Searcy out-rebounded the Lady Lions 39-25.
Celsor led all scorers with 18 points. Lauren Harrison added 10 for Searcy. Celsor and Elliot Scarbrough each pulled down nine rebounds to lead the team, while Lindsey Hanshew grabbed eight boards.
Randel led Jacksonville with 16 points while Lanier, who spent much of the game on the bench with foul trouble, finished with eight points and eight rebounds.
Searcy improved to 11-5 overall and 2-1 in the 6A-East. Jacksonville fell to 7-8 and 1-2 in league play.