By KEVIN WEAKS
South Fulton struggled through the first quarter and trailed by two points in the final seconds. By the start of the third period, though, the Red Devilettes were comfortably out in front and rolling along to a spot in the District 14A Tournament finals.
Shutting out a team for eight minutes and 45 seconds will do that.
SF held Lake County scoreless from its basket with 25 seconds to play in the first period until 20 seconds into the third frame en route to a 50-37 win in the league semifinal game Thursday night at the SF gym.
By knocking off the defending district tourney champion, South Fulton will now get its chance to hold the gold-plated plaque on Saturday night when it faces No. 1-ranked Union City at 7:30 p.m. That game will follow the consolation meeting between Lake County and Greenfield at 6.
While South Fulton’s defense ultimately played a big role in the outcome, the Devilettes could do little more than trade baskets with the Lady Falcons in the opening quarter.
There were four ties and two lead changes in the first frame alone, LC taking the biggest lead at 12-8 with 2:19 to remaining on baskets by Wakeelha Jones and Shamon Pearson.
Pearson finished with 12 points, second on her team behind Jones’ 16. But it was pressure on Pearson that turned the game around. She scored half her points in the first period and then didn’t tally again until the final seconds of the third period.
“Overall, I thought we did a good job defensively,” SF head coach Curt Lee said. “Pearson never really got anything going. We tried to switch different girls on her and keep her off-balance, and I thought we did a good job of that. And, throw in that they didn’t shoot very well helped us out a lot.”
SF trailed 14-12 at the half but then put up 12 more points in the second to lead 24-14 at the half. Five different Devilette players scored in the second quarter, Laken Haley knocking down a trey to put her team up for good at 15-14 with 6:41 to play and then Taleeah Cross getting four of her game-high 22 points in the final two minutes.
Jones finally broke the drought with a layup at 7:40 of the third quarter, but then Cross bottomed a 21-footer from the top of the key, added three free throws on six chances at the line, and scored twice inside as SF built its lead to 38-25 at the third horn.
Lake County tried to stay close and was within 10 points, 40-30, on a steal and layup by Pearson and a six-footer by Jones.
After missing three straight front-ends of bonus chances at the line, South Fulton settled down and connected on eight of their final nine to finish the night 12-of-23 at the line.
In addition the win, it was a special night 5-7 senior forward Ka-lon Martin, who scored her 1,000th career point in the first half.
“I’m proud for her,” Lee said. “She been with us four years and has battled her butt off. She’s had some ups and downs, but she’s been able to keep herself in the right frame of mind. Not many people get to be there. And, probably 90 percent of her points come off the fact she gets offensive rebounds.”
Martin finished with 10 points and was presented a basketball at the end of the game to commemorate the event.
Published in The Messenger 2.15.13