Leader Blues

Friday, February 27, 2009

SPORTS >> Lady Owls pull upset, reach state for first time

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

AUGUSTA – The Lady Red Devil fans were not aware that they were witnessing history in the making. Nor did they much care.

That was evident by the stunning silence in their gymnasium with 2:42 left to play when Abundant Life sophomore Sydney Venus stepped up to the foul line with the Lady Owls holding a 46-33 lead. Venus hit both ends to extend the lead to 15, as Abundant Life went on to stun the defending 2A state runners-up 50-36 in the first round of the 2A-East regional tournament on Wednesday afternoon.

Abundant Life (25-12), which came into the tourney as a long shot No. 4 seed, pulled off the biggest upset of the opening round with the win over top-seeded Augusta, and qualified for the state tournament for the first time in the program’s history.

“That sounds good. I’ve been waiting to hear that,” said an elated Lady Owls coach Justin Moseley. “It’s been a long process, but I’m so proud of them for getting here. I felt like we had a good matchup tonight for it being a No. 1-No. 4 game. We worked really hard on defense and boxing out. I had to call time-out once to remind them of our game plan, but the rest of the game, they did everything I wanted them to do defensively, and I know that’s why we won.”

That plan included packing the lane tight to avoid dribble penetration. Augusta got plenty of looks, but made only 14 of 67 from the floor after starting off a dismal 2 of 15 in the first quarter.

The Lady Owls were more selective, making 16 of 38, including 10 of 19 in the second half.

Augusta cut the Lady Owls’ lead down to three to start the fourth quarter on a putback jumper by Deanna Gillespie, but that was as close as the Lady Devils got. Abundant Life followed with a 9-0 run that extended the lead to 39-27 with 5:27 left to play. The Lady Owls went 8 of 11 from the floor in the fourth quarter, and hit eight of their final nine shots.

“That fourth quarter was awesome,” said Moseley. “We had a couple of big threes. We made some foolish passes, but that’s part of the learning process. They haven’t been here before in this situation, so they’ll learn from that.”

A single free throw in the first quarter was all AL senior Brittany Sharp had to show until the final six minutes, when she hit an inside jumper to give the Lady Owls a 36-27 lead. She followed that with a three-point basket assisted by Hannah Pastor to extend the lead to 12, and tacked on another trey with 4:36 left to play that essentially put it away.

“That’s when she got her looks,” Moseley said. “They played a triangle-and-two defense, and had one on her and Hannah the whole game. It was tough for both of them to get good looks, I know that had a lot to do with it, but those were huge shots she had in the fourth.”

It was sophomore post Carmyn Sharp who got things going for the Lady Owls in the first quarter. The younger Sharp scored seven of her 10 points in the first eight minutes, taking advantage of extra defensive pressure on Pastor.

Her biggest shot of the night was a three-pointer to start the third quarter after the Lady Devils had pulled to within one.

Abundant Life marched out to a 14-7 lead at the end of one before the Lady Red Devils rallied to start the second quarter. Their 6-0 run was capped with a jumper by Janea Green at the 5:17 mark to make it 14-13. Green then tied the game at 18 with 3:08 left in the half on a transition lay-up, but a pair of free throws by Savannah Lancaster put the Lady Owls back out front. Lancaster finished with five points.

The Lady Red Devils had 36 rebounds and committed 10 turnovers, while Abundant Life had 45 rebounds and 19 giveaways.

Pastor led the Lady Owls 13 points and nine rebounds. Brittany Sharp added nine points and 11 rebounds. Andrea Venus had eight points and eight rebounds. For Augusta, Daysha Barber led the way with 13 points and 12 rebounds, while Green added 10 points and Autumn Brown had 11 rebounds.

The Lady Owls took on Hughes in the regional semifinals last night after Leader deadlines.