Clear Springs girls oust Hightower from postseason
Clear Springs stepped back from the brink of disaster to knock out defending Region III champion Hightower 77-67 Monday at the Campbell Center.
The Chargers (33-2) earned the right to return to Campbell Friday for their first ever regional tournament appearance. The Hurricanes finished the season at 34-5.
Quickness and ball movement allowed Clear Springs to jump out to a 28-12 lead after the first quarter. The Chargers forced eight Hurricane turnovers and struck for five 3-pointers in that span.
Hightower showed the poise of a champion over the next two quarters. The Hurricanes went to their strength inside to outscore Clear Springs 45-26 and take a 57-54 lead into the final eight minutes of play.
Alana Heard, Tanelle Williams, Jasmine Prophet and Tyler Gilbert led the way for the Hurricanes and accounted for 43 of Hightower's final point total.
Clear Springs missed its first five shots in the fourth period before Courtnie Latham scored on an offensive rebound.
That touched off a remarkable comeback for the Chargers, who went on to score on their next seven possessions. The resulting 16-5 gave Clear Springs a 70-62 advantage with 1:22 left to play.
"We got taken out of our game a little bit (in the middle two quarters)," Clear Springs coach Pam Crawford said. "But we didn't rattle. Even thought we lost the lead, we wanted to stay close. Then in the fourth quarter, we were going to regroup and bring it back.
"Once we got ahead, we knew what we wanted to do. We wanted to make them come out wide and play us."
While the Chargers' tight pressure paid dividends in the first quarters, it also produced an abundance of fouls. That began to take a toll on Clear Springs' offense.
Sophomore Courtney Latham came up big at that point, scoring 12 of her game total of 14 points in the second to give the Chargers the spark they needed.
"Courtney stepped up, but I also have to give props to my seniors tonight," Crawford said. "Mileka Loydrake had an ACL tear last year and couldn't play. I saved her for the playoffs, and that kid stepped up tonight."
Four of Clear Spring's five starters were sophomores. The other was freshman point guard Brooke McCarty, who produced one of her best games of the season when the Chargers needed it most.
McCarty ended with 23 points, but her most valuable contributions were defense and passing. That was never more evident that in one play late in the game.
With Clear Spring holding the ball and a five-point lead with under two minutes to play, McCarty brought out the Hurricane defense on a dribble before rifling a pass to teammate Tiffany Terry under the basket. The resulting three-point play effectively ended Hightower's chances with 1:22 remaining.
"I can't even find the words," Crawford said. "Brooke is an exceptional basketball player. She doesn't play like a freshman and she doesn't think like a freshman.
"The most important thing is that she's not selfish. She loves the game, she loves her teammates and she loves to win, so she does what it takes. It's not about her."
Local Advertising by PaperG