Times-Courier

Monroe eliminates Lady Cats

  • All-region players Bailey Charles and Hannah Jones (2) clamp down on a Madison player. Against Monroe, they were GHS’ leading scorers. (Photos by Robbie Bills)
Monroe snares Cats’ playoff run

by Robbie Bills
rbills@timescourier.com

The Gilmer Lady Cats’ dream season has ended.

A historic year on the hardwood concluded with a 53-40 loss in the Sweet 16 to the Monroe Tornadoes last Friday at the GHS gym.

“It just wasn’t our time, I guess,” said Gilmer coach Kim Charles. “I’m proud of the girls. We played really well. I feel like we could have won it, but didn’t. I guess the loss would be easier to take if there just wasn’t any way to win it. I feel like we could’ve won, we just weren’t as ‘on’ as much as we were on some nights. We didn’t get as many offensive rebounds as I think we should have. We were getting one shot a lot of times and that was it.”    

Monroe (22-9) had plenty of speed, height and depth, and Charles said, “They were one of the more balanced teams we’ve played this season.”

The Tornadoes were led by guards Keshaundra Price and Lynsey Washington, who each scored 18 points. Post player Toddrianna Isler added 10, with eight following offensive rebounds.

“They didn’t really have any weak links. They were very balanced. I knew No. 10 (Price) was a really good player. I didn’t know as much about No. 32 (Isler) and she was a good post, had good moves and rebounded. No. 4 (Washington) hit a few key shots in the third quarter that hurt us. They were real balanced. They didn’t have a weakness,” Charles said.

The No. 10 ranked Lady Cats fell behind 7-0 in the first as Monroe’s full-court pressure induced unsteady play and turnovers. After settling in, Gilmer scored its first point four minutes into the game on a Hannah Jones free throw. A jumper by Bailey Charles and two in the post by Kaylee Deyton drew the Cats within two. Deyton also found Meghan Flowers for an open basket and Gilmer trailed 11-7 after a quarter.

Lady Cat Whitley Reece came off the bench for two points and Charles added two more. Monroe’s lead grew to 16-9 before Emily Sanford scored seven points and gave the Cats some much-needed momentum.

The Tornadoes only made two field goals in the second, but converted 6-of-7 free throws, which turned out to be one of their strengths, as they made 26-of-32 on the afternoon.

Monroe took a 21-18 lead into the second half before Jones and Charles began penetrating the lane and combined for 12-of-14 third quarter points. Washington hit two three-pointers and scored nine in the third to give Monroe a spark offensively.

Behind 36-32 to begin the final quarter, GHS all but abandoned shot attempts inside the three-point arc. The strategy proved costly as the Cats made just 2-of-8 three-point shots in the game’s deciding eight minutes.

“Toward the end we were just trying to score points, so we were shooting the three. It seemed like we were passing the ball around too much. We needed to make something happen faster than we were. We should have penetrated more and just tried to get a shot off and maybe get a foul called,” Charles said.

Monroe relied on its free-throw potency in the fourth. While the Tornadoes did not make a single field goal, they converted 17-of-20 from the line, which included an 8-of-10 effort from Price and the Cats lost by 13.

Jones led GHS with 13 points and Charles scored 12. Sanford added nine. Deyton and Sanford and each collected five rebounds, as did Flowers to go along with three steals.

First-round triumph

The Cats began the Class 4A tournament with a 55-33 victory over the Madison County Red Raiders.

GHS came out firing on all cylinders as five Lady Cats scored in the game’s opening eight minutes, and Flowers and Sanford each hit a three-pointer. The Raiders also enjoyed their most fruitful quarter as open attempts found the bottom of the net and Gilmer led 20-14.

“We were extremely hot in the first quarter and that’s probably the best we’ve ever shot,” Charles said. “Rebounding is what we have to do because we’re not big. When we don’t get more than one shot is when we struggle. Press-wise, I didn’t think we were doing a good job so I pulled us out of it. They were getting too many layups on the back side.”

Sanford hit her second three of the game to begin the second. Following two free throws by Flowers, the Cats’ offense slowed. However, the Raiders were unable to gain any ground as they began the quarter with five scoreless minutes. Charles scored seven straight points for GHS’ remaining offense and the Cats took a 32-20 lead into the half.

Sloppy play ensued in the third as GHS began to rack up turnovers to keep Madison in the game. The Cats maintained their 12-point lead to begin the final quarter and regained their early-game form to secure the 22-point win.

“In the third quarter we started making too many turnovers at the beginning, and that’s when I called a timeout and said ‘We’ve got to get it together and quit throwing the ball around and just play basketball.’ Offensively, we continued to push the ball and never really went into a stall (offense),” Charles noted.

Madison only scored four points in the fourth. The Raiders launched and missed three-pointers, and made only 2-of-17 three-point attempts on the night.

Charles explained the Cats’ late-game strategy, saying, “I felt like they were getting tired and we weren’t. We went to a 2-3 zone because No. 14 (Mya Moss) is their player and it was obvious they were trying to get her the ball.”

Sanford led GHS with 15 points and seven rebounds. Flowers scored 10 and Charles and Jones added nine each. Deyton and Megan Allen both scored six points. Deyton collected six rebounds, followed by Jones with five and Charles with four.

Moss was Madison’s leading scorer with 14.

Season highlights

Gilmer ended the season with a 23-6 record, which matched the most seasonal wins in the program’s history. The Cats’ region title and playoff victory were their first since Gilmer defeated Fannin County for the Region 8-2A title in 1991-1992 and reached the Final Four. GHS posted a 3-0 record against Pickens and defeated Fannin two-of-three times this season.

Charles believes momentum achieved during the summer carried into the season, and their success was aided by a close-knit team atmosphere.

“They’ve had a great season and it really started this summer when we went to camp and were camp champs,” she said. “We beat the Florida Class 4A runner-up. We had a very productive summer and the only teams that beat us were Northwest Whitfield and South Forsyth.”

Charles added, “They’ve worked hard and put a lot of time in. Most have been playing since they were five. They enjoy each other’s company. I would say they’re each other’s best friends. They’re all active at school and have been together for a long time. Most of the goals we set for ourselves we accomplished: We won the tip-off tournament. We were region champs. We had a winning season; to go a step further at state, which we did. It just would have been nice to go further. They’re a great group of athletes.”
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