Lady Eagles Rally for Fourth Title

Alyssa Atkerson (11) dishes the ball inside to Marion Walker Coleman during Saturday's SCISA Class A title game vs. Dorchester. (Photo/Ross Burton)

Alyssa Atkerson (11) dishes the ball inside to Marion Walker Coleman during Saturday’s SCISA Class A title game vs. Dorchester. (Photo/Ross Burton)

SUMTER (Feb. 29, 2016) – Dorchester Academy’s height — four six-footers in its lineup — posed a problem for the Richard Winn girls in Saturday’s SCISA Class A title game, albeit not for long.

The Lady Raiders jumped out to an early lead using a dominant presence under the net on offense and defense. Once the Lady Eagles jacked up their 1-3-1 defense and threw in an array of mid-court traps, a fourth straight championship was as good as theirs.

After a slow first quarter, Richard Winn stole the ball 22 times to rally past, then rout, the Lady Raiders 43-30 for the crown.

“Coming into the game we were all pumped up,” senior point guard Alyssa Atkerson said. “It was definitely harder than last year, but we stayed in it and we didn’t give up. Their whole team was big, so we had to stay in there and box them out.”

Atkerson, who had 10 points and seven steals on the day, reached those totals with three fouls on her for most of the game. She drew her fourth foul with 6:50 left in the fourth quarter.

“It was difficult at first,” said senior Jaycie Johnson, who led all scorers with 18 points. “We had to buckle down and give it everything we have. We all can read each other pretty well, so we understand what we had to do to get the job done.”

Richard Winn head coach Jason Haltiwanger was pleased to see the Eagles (27-1) complete a fourth-straight title run, but had few words to express it.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Praise be to God. He’s a good man. We praise Him when we win, and when we lose we praise Him. So we’ll celebrate this.”

Dorchester Academy (25-6) used its size to push out the Lady Eagles from the inside. While few shots fell in the first quarter, the Lady Raiders out-rebounded Richard Winn 10-4 and took an 8-3 lead at the buzzer.

“Alyssa got two early fouls and that backed us up,” Haltiwanger said. “I was scared to pressure her. If she picked up more fouls and got fouled out, we’d have to go home without it. We couldn’t keep playing a half-court game.”

Once the Lady Eagles committed to playing its 1-3-1 with Atkerson in the lead, the tide changed dramatically.

“We can’t play in a half-court set with them, they’re too big,” Haltiwanger said. “They have four six-foot girls, and we had to roll the dice and pressure them.”

Having just one field goal over that span — an Atkerson shot with a minute left in the first quarter — the Lady Eagles went to work in the second quarter. Dorchester had taken a 14-5 lead midway through the period.

Once Richard Winn employed a half-court trap that quickly netted three Marion Walker Coleman steals, the Lady Raiders buckled.

“That just got us more ready to get after it,” said Coleman who had nine points, eight steals and a blocked shot in the game.

She added that the team putting pressure on the Raiders at mid-court boosted the Lady Eagles’ chances of turning the game around.

“I think so,” she said. “(Making more turnovers) got me more pumped up and got us all fired up.”

The Lady Eagles closed out the quarter on an 8-0 run to go into the locker room trailing 14-13 at the half.

Richard Winn kept the heat on in the second half. After a Juliana McAlhaney basket, Coleman put in a basket and a pair of foul shots to give the Eagles the lead for good, a 17-16 advantage at the 6:25 mark of the third.

Jaycie Johnson scored eight of Richard Winn’s next 10 points as the Lady Eagles closed out the third leading 27-19. A 16-11 run in the fourth quarter secured the game and the championship for Richard Winn.

Julia Smoak led the Lady Raiders with 12 points on the afternoon, including two second-half 3-pointers that kept them in the game. Julia McAlhany had 13 rebounds in addition to nine points.

“Momentum kind of shifted and we panicked, to be honest with you,” Dorchester head coach Anthony McAlhany said. “They (the Lady Eagles) are very impressive. They hustle, they get at it. Instead of us putting a bunch of pressure on them, we panicked. Instead of waiting on the easy back-door shots, we let them get away from us.”

 

Richard Winn 43, Dorchester 30

D: 8-6-5-11 – 30

RW: 3-10-14-16 – 43

D – Julia Smoak 12, McAlhaney 9, Gray 8, Varn 1. R – Jaycie Johnson 18, Alyssa Atkerson 10, Coleman 9, Taylor 4, Walker 2. REC: Dorchester 25-6, Richard Winn 27-1.

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