Southwest sweeps East Central in Season finale

Published 11:30 am Friday, February 20, 2015

SUMMIT – While the season did not end with a second consecutive trip to the MACJC state tournament, it did end in great fashion for the Southwest Lady Bears Thursday night as they avenged an earlier 25-point loss in Decatur with a 78-76 win over visiting East Central.

The Lady Bears finished the campaign with an 11-12 overall mark. They were 6-8 in the South Division. East Central moves on to the state tournament with a record of 19-4, 0-4.

In men’s action, Southwest fans in attendance got their money’s worth and more Thursday night as the Southwest Bears overcame a 13-point second-half deficit and the ejection of their head coach to defeat visiting East Central in dramatic fashion, 75-74. The win served as payback for a 10-point Southwest defeat in Decatur in January.

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The Bears ended the year with a record of 9-13 overall and 6-8 in the MACJC South Division. East Central moves into the state tournament with marks of 13-10, 8-6.

Southwest 78, East Central 76 

The game was tight from the opening tip to the final buzzer with seven ties and 10 lead changes. The Lady Bears took an early 2-0 lead on Gabriella Cortez’ basket then saw the Lady Warriors move out to a 14-7 lead, their biggest of the game, with 13:32 left in the half.

The Lady Bears fought back to take a 17-15 lead on a Lillie Snowden jumper with 10:09 on the clock. Free throws from Cortez and Eyonna Wolfe then had the Lady Bears up 22-18 with 7:09 remaining. The teams then traded baskets the rest of the half before the Lady Warriors took a 35-34 lead into the locker room at the end of the first half.

The Lady Warriors extended their lead to 42-36 early in the second half before back-to-back three pointers from Eyonna Wolfe knotted things at 42-42 with 17:27 left in the game.

With 1:17 on the clock, Teshia Jones hit a free throw to give the Lady Bears a 56-52 lead. However, the Lady Warriors fought back to go up 68-63 with 5:38 to go.

A 6-0 run then put the Lady Bears back on top 69-68 with 3:57 showing and took their biggest lead of the night, 75-70, on a pair of Talisa Sherman free throws with 1:30 on the clock.

The Lady Warriors scored six of the next eight points to make the score 77-76 with 0:12 to go, but the Lady Bears were able to hang on for the slim win.

Cortez topped the Lady Bears with 21 points in the game. Sherman and Jones were also in double figures with 13 and 10 points, respectively.

Snowden and Wolfe both scored eight points. Aaliyah Williams added seven, Madison Mault six and Cortney Epting five. The Lady Bears made 28 of 33 free throws.

Tashi-ana Thompson scored 26 points for East Central to lead all scorers. The Lady Warriors were good on 25 of 34 free throws.

Southwest 75, East Central 74 

The Bears seemed in control of the game in the early going, taking a 14-8 lead on Xavion Dillon’s free throw with 13:04 left in the half. Outscoring the Warriors 9-5 over the next 6:00, the Bears then extended their lead to 10 points, 23-13, on a Cliff Fernandez three pointer with 7:07 on the clock.

But, the Warriors were not ready to roll over. Down 25-17 with 4:14 on the clock, the visitors went on a 12-0 scoring spree to take a 29-25 lead with 0:22 before the break. A Lafayette Rutledge three pointer just before the buzzer then sent the teams into intermission with the Warriors on top 29-28.

Intensity made itself very present early in the second half. With the game tied, 33-33 and 18:33 left in the game, Bears head coach Thomas Gray received two technical fouls and was ejected from the game. Four free throws and a three pointer from Quinton Campbell followed that closed out a 10-0 run that put the Warriors on top 43-33 with 17:00 left in the game. They then moved out to a 50-37 lead with 15:10 to go.

Following the ejection of Gray, the Bears seemed to play inspired ball and refused to yield. Keeping the game close, the Bears finally took a 70-69 lead on David Burrell’s three pointer with 2:35 remaining.

The teams then traded baskets as the clock wound down and the drama continued. With 0:01 on the clock, Dillon went to the free throw line for the Bears. Netting one of two shots, he provided the winning margin as the Bears closed out the season on a high note.

Assistant coach Andy Farrell assumed control of the team following Gray’s departure. Going into the team huddle after that, Farrell said the players “kept saying over and over ‘we have to get this for Coach Gray.’ That was special and that really let me know where their minds were. Our team is so strong mentally that they were able to use that as motivation to unify with one another for the guy who’s been their leader all year.”\

Even down 13 points, Farrell said the team was full of confidence. “They never once doubted one another or the game plan that we had for them. All those early morning practices, conditioning sessions and individual workouts built them to be ready for all of the adversity that we faced and they handled it like the team we know they are.”

Rutledge scored 18 points to lead the Bears in scoring. Dillon finished with 15 points and 15 rebounds while Jaylen Moore had 13 points and nine assists. Burrell also ended with a double double, with 12 points and 11 boards.

Trent Jeffries recorded six points. Fernandez and Jeremy Reddy both scored three and Justin McCray and Monte Martin both had two. Chris McIntosh chipped in one point. The Bears made 22 of 32 free throws.

East Central was led by Campbell’s 23 points. The Warriors hit 12 of 17 free throws.