Gordon Central's Mercedes Coleman

Gordon Central’s Mercedes Coleman (23) goes up for a shot over Pepperell’s Kaylee Mansell during the first half on Tuesday. (Frank Crowe, For the Calhoun Times)

FRANK CROWE

As the regular season winds down, the growth the Gordon Central Lady Warriors has experienced this year was on full display as the team put forth its most potent offensive and stifling defensive efforts on Tuesday to secure a 51-38 victory over the Pepperell Lady Dragons.

Offensively, the Lady Warriors were boosted by another stellar performance from do-it-all guard Mercedes Coleman, who scored a game-high 16 points by navigating through the defense to get to the rim and converting shots from behind the arc.

“Mercedes was great as usual, and we always encourage her to shoot it even more than she does,” Gordon Central coach Swanson said. “But she is a great teammate and leader for this team, and she is always focused on getting others the ball and finding ways to win.”

Also contributing solid outings for the team was Olivia Fleming, who totaled 13 points by knocking down four 3-pointers, and Cara Crump, who tacked on 10 points while operating as of the squad’s primary facilitators.

“We know that for us to be the best team that we can be, our guards have to be able to hit open shots,” Swanson said. “And I think we did a good job of that tonight. Olivia and Cara brought a ton of energy that we needed.”

The Lady Warriors were strong from the initial tip on both ends of the court, transforming three early steals into a swift nine-point scoring stretch. The team’s defense remained stout throughout the first quarter, keeping the Lady Dragons off the scoreboard entirely for the opening five minutes of the game.

Gordon Central’s stellar early play resulted in a 21-13 advantage heading into the second quarter. Pepperell did manage to piece together a quick run to get within three points, but the Lady Warriors clamped down and converted the majority of its free throw opportunities to push the lead back to eight before the break.

“I thought we played well on offense in the first half, but I was really impressed with the intensity we brought on defense,” Swanson said. “We guarded well and were in the right spots, and we made it extremely difficult for them to get a shot off. We have really made a lot of progress on the defensive end in the past couple of weeks.”

While the first half of the contest was largely defined by Gordon Central’s swarming play on the defensive half, the second half functioned as more of an offensive showcase for the Lady Warriors. The team went on a 13-2 run to take full control of the game in the third quarter, resulting in an 18-point edge at the end of the period.

“We were actually missing two key players due to the flu, so I think the players that received more playing time gave our offensive a spark during the game,” Swanson said. “We knew that we had to move the ball well against this team, and I thought we were able to get the ball to our open shooters quickly and that opened up a lot of quality shots.”

Pepperell didn’t go away easily in the final eight minutes, clawing back to come within 12 multiple times before the final buzzer. However, the Lady Warriors had built such a large lead in the third that the team was able to coast through the final ticks of the game relying on its defensive abilities.

“The key to this win was our defense first and foremost,” Swanson said. “We also did a great job of not turning the ball over and taking advantage of any open shots they gave us. I’m really proud of our overall performance tonight.”

Gordon Central wrap up the regular season on Friday night at 7 p.m. at home against Chattooga.

In the Gordon Central-Pepperell boys game later on Tuesday night:

Pepperell boys 87, Gordon Central 66

It was not as successful of an outing for the Warriors, who fell victim to the quick-scoring offensive prowess and veteran roster depth of Pepperell in a loss.

Despite the defeat, Gordon Central did receive a robust effort from dynamic wing Quan Curtis, who racked up 21 points as the team’s best rim slasher.

Also chipping in for the Warriors was forward Dawson Lackey, who netted 10 points, guards Turner Mathis and Christian Marycz, who both finished with eight points, and guard Quinton Lockett, who pitched in six points.

The contest was tightly-contested in the early going, with Gordon Central scoring the first basket and gaining a quick 5-3 lead in the game’s opening minute. However, the Dragons snagged the lead a few minutes later, and would not relinquish it for the remainder of the game.

Due to its vast array of scoring threats, Pepperell turned an 18-8 stretch into a 28-16 lead after one quarter, and expanded the scoring margin to 44-30 at halftime.

After halftime adjustments, the Dragons had an even more successful third quarter tossing in 26 more points and further cementing the victory.

Pepperell was paced by Dawson Melton, who totaled 23 points, and Davis McGinty, who contributed 14.

The Warriors play their final regular season game on Friday at home against Chattooga at 8:30 p.m.