By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
What at first seemed like an open road to an upset ended up being a stop sign for South Fulton.
The Red Devilettes — making the first regional tournament appearance in seven years — failed to capitalize on a first-quarter opening when Dresden did not make a field goal and ultimately saw their season end at the hands of ninth-ranked Lady Lions, 50-35, in the 7A Tournament quarterfinals Thursday night.
The loss ends SF’s otherwise solid season with a 19-12 record, the program’s most victories since the 2004-05 campaign and the last time the Lady Red Devils advanced past the district tourney.
Dresden (24-6), meanwhile, advances to Saturday’s regional semis at Trenton to play Union City (18-10) at 7:30 p.m., with the winner not only securing a place in the tournament championship round but also a sectional berth on March 3.
South Fulton couldn’t take advantage of the Lady Lions’ 0-of-12 first-period shooting, instead leading just 8-5 at the horn when a much larger cushion was there for the taking.
And after the Devilettes went up 13-9 via a 3-pointer from Taleeah Cross early in the second quarter, Dresden changed strategies and began attacking the basket on drives — an approach that produced an 18-3 flurry and a 27-16 SF deficit.
The host team then turned things over to sophomore Amy McAlpin after the intermission and she was not to be denied on her many charges to the bucket, scoring 20 of her game-high 25 points over the final two periods and all but three of her team’s markers during that time to officially signal the end for the Big Red.
“We caught them on a night when they were off with their shooting, but we couldn’t keep them from getting to the rim and shooting free throws,” SF head coach Curt Lee confirmed when discussing the final game of his 11th season on the high school level.
While the Lady Lions admittedly struggled early from the perimeter, their gal-to-gal defense kept them close until they switched to their attacking mode.
Dresden paid particular attention to SF’s best threats — Cross and Kalon Martin — limiting them to 12 points apiece and a combined 15 of their teams’ 16 markers before the halftime break.
A collection of different Devilette combinations failed to contribute much else offensively, though, as no one other than Cross or Martin made a field goal for South Fulton until Cori Jo Edmison hit a bucket from in-close with 1:04 left in the third period.
By then it was 37-20 and a run of 10 unanswered Dresden points in the fourth quarter while SF was going more than four minutes without a point that opened the gap to 50-28 and sealed the inevitable.
“They played off us some and closed the middle to stop Talleah and Kalon and we, in turn, couldn’t get to the bucket or the foul line,” Lee added. “Either they overwhelmed us defensively, or we’re not good enough offensively to create our own shots. We never got anything going. Some of it was youth and the pressure of the situation.
“The games we’ve won this year against good teams, we’ve had people to step up other than those two. It’s been a mixture and not always the same person. Not tonight.”
The game was the last in a SF uniform for seniors Edmison and Savannah Larson.
“I congratulated them on hanging in there for six years and finally helping us get over the hump and getting to the regional tournament,” their coach concluded. “And I challenged the younger girls to set some higher goals, to get in the gym and work to get us past the first round of the regional.
“That’ll only happen if they put in the work on their game.”
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 2.24.12