Firing on all cylinders and continuing to hit its stride more and more with each passing AAA state playoff game, the Sonoraville girls basketball team extended its momentous, historic playoff run by coasting past Rutland 75-51 at The Furnace to lock in a one-in-four opportunity to hoist the state championship trophy.
Utilizing contributions from up and down the starting lineup, as well as the bench due to some early foul trouble, it was a well-rounded and complete team performance on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court for Sonoraville. Spearheading the scoring efforts was Alexa Geary, who compiled 18 points while operating as a force on the fast break and behind the arc, while also leading the charge for the team’s full-court press.
Sonoraville was also sparked by Maliyah Parks, who had to overcome a trio of early fouls but was still unstoppable around the rim and scored 16 points, Abby Chambers, who continued to knock down timely three-pointers while accumulating 12 points, Grace Darnell, who often facilitated the half-court offense while adding 11 points, and Lindsay Bowman, who chipped in eight clutch points while dealing with a tough defensive assignment. Brooke Jones, who filled in for Parks after she picked up those early fouls, pitched in four points and was valuable on the boards.
“I thought it was a total team effort,” Sonoraville head coach Stephanie Caudell (fresh off a celebratory gatorade bath) said. “When Maliyah (Parks) did get in foul trouble, Brooke Jones, who hasn’t got to play a lot this year, got to come in and play and she did a good job. No. 11 for them (BreAsia Davis) is a really good player, and I thought Abby Chambers, who guarded the other team’s best player all year, did a good job on her, and Avery Hamilton did too when she was on her. Offensively, I thought everyone did a good job making shots.”
In a contest that was a bit more competitive than the final score indicates, it was Rutland that actually secured an early first-quarter lead out of the gate. However, it was soon apparent that the Lady Hurricanes didn’t quite have enough defensive prowess to contain the plethora of ways the Lady Phoenix can produce buckets. Sonoraville soon snagged a 22-9 lead midway through the first, parlaying that into a 24-14 lead at the end of the period.
“I think sometimes we press to get the game at the pace that we want to play,” Caudell said. “We knew we would have some matchup problems in the halfcourt at times, so sometimes pressing makes them take an early shot. Our halfcourt man (defense) has gotten progressively better all year.”
Despite facing large deficits throughout each quarter, Rutland never went away, slicing the margin back into the single digits a couple of times in before the half, however Sonoraville kept the Lady Hurricanes at bay once again, increasing the gap to 35-23 heading into the locker rooms.
Although Rutland remained tenacious and converted a handful of baskets to open the second half, Sonoraville’s fullcourt press proved increasingly suffocating, generating turnovers and easy baskets. It was in the third that the Lady Phoenix stretched the score out to its biggest lead of the game of 22 points.
The Lady Hurricanes would cut that lead back down to 11 in the early fourth quarter, but much of the final eight minutes were business as usual for the Lady Phoenix, who closed the game out with a thrilling pair of made 3’s and high percentage on the free-throw line to notch a trip to Savannah. Sonoraville held the opposition to just eight points in that period.
“Give (Rutland) credit, they kept coming back and making a game out of it,” Caudell said. “With this group its hard whether to tell them to pump the breaks a litte bit or keep going, but we just made big shots and free throws down the stretch. It definitely makes my job easier when they are making shots like that.”
The Lady Phoenix are now slated to square off with Johnson (Savannah) on Saturday in the Class AAA Final Four at the Georgia Southern satellite campus (formerly Armstrong Atlantic) at 6 p.m.
“This group is always really loose, and I think they like the big stage,” Caudell said. “They loved playing in front of this crowd, but the opponents are only going to get tougher. I’m just going to tell them to continue to go out there and do what they do, and we’ll see what happens.”