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Lady Demons hang on to hold off NC

Posted: December 17, 2013 1:08 p.m.
Updated: December 18, 2013 5:00 a.m.

This was one daily double which never pays off.
Turning the ball over 40 times --- combined with a 5-for-15 performance at the free throw line --- left little wiggle room for North Central. It also provided the backdrop for Lady Knights’ head coach Mitch Lowder when talking about his team’s 35-28 loss to visiting Lugoff-Elgin on Monday.
For the second time in five nights, the Lady Demons topped their in-county rivals in a non-region game played inside The Castle in Boonetown. For Von Duncan’s charges, the victory was their second in seven outings. The disappointing setback was the sixth in as many regular season starts for the hostesses.
“A lot of those were unforced turnovers,” Lowder said about his team’s miscues on the offensive end. “We would have the ball going up the court and (L-E) had players coming from behind us and taking the ball away. We panicked on rebounds and would throw the ball to the wrong person …
“One thing we wanted to do was to attack the basket and get to the free throw line. We did that and we got to the line, but we just didn’t convert. I think that was the biggest stat in the ballgame; our missed free throws.”
The Lady Demons were coming off a loss to rival Camden on Friday in a game in which they ended up getting into a full-court transition contest which played into the Lady Bulldogs’ hands. On Monday, L-E played at a more comfortable pace. That, Duncan said, was not an accident.
“After Friday night’s game,” she said, “we had a talk with our guards and told them that whenever we have the ball in our hands, we control the tempo of the game. As long as we have possession of the ball, the other team can’t score on us. A lot of times, we give the other team more opportunities because we rush the ball down the court and throw it away. That’s not helping us at all.”
What the Lady Demons did on this night was finish strong.
When NC’s Takeshia Joe answered an Abby Gary basket, it knotted things at 27 with 4:30 left in the contest. From there, it was all Lady Demons.
“If we could have ever taken the lead …,” Lowder said of the game’s final minutes. “We would make some big plays defensively then, all of a sudden, we’re rotating the wrong way and they get a layup.”
The game-winner was supplied, 18 seconds later, by Bryanne Long whose 12-foot bank shot gave the guests a 29-27 advantage. With 3:41 to go, junior center Shairell Gadson grabbed her own miss and, with her back to the basket, laid it home to make it 31-27. The lead was trimmed by one with an Abigail DuRant free throw at the 2:52 mark of the fourth quarter.
L-E left the door open for an NC comeback with a missed free throw with 2:43 showing on the game clock. But Gadson grabbed the rebound and stuck it home to make it 33-28. Gadson scored the final two points of the game by going outside for a 12-foot jumper for the final pair of her career-best 12-point night.
The 5-foot-11 Gadson gave NC match-up problems all night and used her height to L-E’s advantage.
 “Our goal was to put a body on her and move her away from the basket,” Lowder said of Gadson. “At times, we did fine, but she got the best of us on offensive rebounds and that hurt us.”
Duncan said Gadson took her coaches’ words and put them into action on Monday. The L-E bench boss said she hopes this becomes trend for all her players.
“We talked to all our players, particularly our post players, about boxing out and rebounding. If we can stick with that, we can keep ourselves in the game,” Duncan said. “We have to put a body on somebody; if somebody is getting away from you, that means you’re not doing your job.
In a game in which the lead see-sawed back and forth, it was L-E using five points from Jasmine Sexton --- including the first of her two 3-point baskets on the night --- to give the guests a 7-6 lead after the first quarter of play.
Trailing 13-8 after the first three minutes of the second quarter, NC used a trey from senior guard Morgan Bass to touch off a 7-0 run which included an Abigail DuRant 10-footer and a Shekee Drakeford putback to give the hostesses a 15-13 lead with less than a half minute to go before intermission. L-E took a 16-15 advantage into the locker room thanks to an Ebonie Ross 3-point bomb from the top of the key with 22 ticks left in the first half clock.
Bass scored five of NC’s nine second quarter points on a night in which she finished with nine, more than five points below her season average. She scored just three second half points as L-E countered whatever the Lady Knights would do in trying to get the ball to their top scorer.
“We know she is their ‘go-to’ player and best shooter,” Duncan said of Bass. “If you can shut the best shooter down, you might have a better chance.”
A pair of missed free throws to open the third quarter cost the Lady Knights the chance to take the lead. L-E came right back with Sexton knocking down a second-chance 3-ball followed by baskets from Ross and Gary for a 23-15 lead with 3:25 left in the third. A pair of Bass free throws and a Drakeford trey came around a Gadson stickback in the closing two and a half minutes of a third quarter which ended with L-E holding a 25-20 lead.
The Lady Demons missed an opportunity to distance themselves from NC from the foul line. Then, with Bass being closely guarded, Drakeford almost single-handedly brought the Lady Knights back with a 3-ball and a 12-footer which evened things at 25 with five minutes left to play. NC, again, hurt itself with a pair of missed free throws on the front ends of one and the bonus mixed between Drakeford’s baskets.
Drakeford came up big for NC with a dozen points on a night in which Bass was the center of L-E’s defensive attention.
“We’d come in and set picks and double-picks to try and get Morgan free and, sometimes, we did,” Lowder said. “That’s what we’re going to face all year.
“One good thing was Shekee Drakeford stepped up. She’s another player who can play either inside or, outside. We have to find a way to get the ball to our scorers and if the rest of our players can contribute anywhere from four to eight points, we’ll be all right.”

L-E (35): Jasmine Sexton 3 0-0 7, Shairell Gadson 6 0-0 12, Abby Gary 2 0-2 4, Bryanne Long 2 0-0 4, Ebonie Ross 3 0-0 7, Celeste Etheridge  0 1-1 1, Saige McLeod 0 0-1 0. Totals: 16 1-5 35
   NC (28): Abigail DuRant 2 1-3 5, Shekee Drakeford 5 0-0 12, Morgan Bass 2 4-6 9, Taylor Robinson 0 0-5 0, Kristen Brown 0 0-1 0, Takeshia Joe 1 0-0 2. Totals: 10 5-15 28
   Score by quarters: First: L-E, 7-6; Halftime: L-E, 16-15; Third: L-E, 25-20; Three-point goals: L-E 2 (Sexton, Ross), NC 3 (Drakeford 2, Bass)

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