ROME — A coach gets to find out a lot about his or her team by the way they bounce back from a loss, especially when that comes with playing in a consolation game scenario. With that in mind, Sonoraville girls head coach Stephanie Caudell had to be pleased with what her team showed on Tuesday.
The Lady Phoenix came back after a discouraging loss in the first round of the Rome News-Tribune Christmas Tournament to put together a solid all-around effort on Tuesday to defeat Pepperell 56-41 in a consolation game at Georgia Highlands. Sonoraville (6-3) used their pressure and up-tempo pace to put the Lady Dragons in a hole early and keep building upon their lead just a day after a disappointing loss to Armuchee to eliminate them from contention for the Gold Ball Trophy.
“I think the few times we haven’t played well in a game this season, we’ve come back the next game, corrected some things and played a lot better,” said Caudell. “We played with more energy and more purpose tonight. I don’t know if we shot it great, but we were aggressive taking shots and that gave us a chance to get second and third shots by competing on the offensive glass.
“The plan was to use our full-court press at some point today, but I really didn’t know it would be as effective as it was. We started in it to get us going and moving and so we wouldn’t come out flat. I challenged the girls today. When you play in a consolation game at 4:30 p.m. and the crowd is sparse, the game really comes down to whoever wants to compete harder. They responded well today.”
Sonoraville jumped out to a 17-10 lead after the first quarter, but Pepperell (2-6) battled back to cut the deficit to 26-20 at the half.
The third quarter started with seven straight points for the Lady Phoenix to help them build their biggest lead so far in the game at 33-20. They carried a 10-point lead at 39-29 to the fourth quarter and kept the pressure on from there with some big steals, buckets and a 6-for-8 mark from the free throw line in the period to finish off the bounce-back win.
The scoring sheet was spread pretty evenly for Sonoraville as Maliyah Parks and Alexa Geary led the way with 12 apiece. Sandi McMullin added 11 with several lay-ups in transition, and Harleigh Chastain, Grace Darnell and Abby Chambers all contributed seven points, each hitting a 3-pointer.
Kaylee Mansell had a big outing to keep Pepperell within striking distance for much of the game with a game-high 20 points. The Lady Dragons’ next leading scorer was Anna Cowan with six.
The win wrapped up Sonoraville’s run in the tournament and will allow them to have a few days off before getting back on the court on Thursday against Allatoona at 6 p.m. at home as part of the Phoenix Holiday Classic. Caudell said she would obviously rather her Lady Phoenix still be playing for a tournament title, but the few days off could prove beneficial for her team.
“Since we’re not playing on in the tournament this week, I think we’ll practice a couple more times and then I’ll give them several days off,” said Caudell.
“That way they can enjoy Christmas and hopefully come back refreshed and ready to start the second half of the season. I’m glad we had these games and have next week’s games before subregion play. I think that will give us a chance to fine-tune some things and make sure we’re prepared for subregion.”
In Sonoraville’s earlier tournament game:
Armuchee girls 38, Sonoraville 36
ROME — The Lady Phoenix made a furious rally in the fourth quarter to tie things up after trailing for much of the game, but Armuchee made 4-of-5 free throws in the final minute to pull out a close victory in the opening round of the Rome News-Tribune Christmas Tournament at Georgia Highlands.
Sonoraville (5-3) trailed 32-22 with about four minutes to play in the fourth quarter as they struggled offensively through the first three quarters. But the Lady Phoenix quickly got back in the game with an 11-1 run that was capped off by an Alexa Geary 3-pointer with 1:31 to play to tie things up at 33-33. Armuchee (7-3) clamped down on defense from there, however, and took advantage of their opportunities at the free throw line to turn away the dramatic comeback attempt.
“I was proud of how we fought back at the end,” said Sonoraville coach Stephanie Caudell. “We’ve got to learn to play that way from the tip. The aggressiveness we’ve had the last few games just wasn’t there tonight in the first three quarters.”
Both teams struggled on the offensive end of the floor as Armuchee held a slim 11-10 lead after the first quarter and a 17-15 advantage at the half. Sonoraville was limited to just four points in the third quarter as the Lady Indians took a 26-19 lead into the fourth.
Maliyah Parks led the scoring for Sonoraville with 15 points. Alexa Geary scored 12 with 10 of those coming in the fourth quarter.
Livia Skinner was the only Armuchee player to reach double figures with 10 points, and Katie Shinholster and Brandy Ann Wacker each added eight.
The loss knocked Sonoraville into a consolation game on Tuesday against Pepperell while Armuchee moved into the quarterfinals where they took on Rome on Tuesday.