Thursday’s version of the crosstown rivalry between the Sonoraville Lady Phoenix and Calhoun Lady Jackets proved to be a clash of similar styles, with both teams utilizing resilient post play to generate easy baskets and snag rebounds, precise outside shooting to create space and a mix of veteran leadership and youthful energy to maintain a steady tempo on both ends of the court.
By the time the final buzzer sounded, it was the Lady Phoenix (13-4, 4-0) that exploited the right matchups and put together a lengthy, explosive scoring run at the right time to secure a hard-fought 64-51 victory.
Sonoraville was paced in the scoring column by senior guard Grace Darnell, who compiled up 19 points as the team’s most reliable scoring threat and operated as one of the offense’s primary facilitators.
The Lady Phoenix were also bolstered by the long-range shooting and fast break capabilities of forward Alexa Geary, who tacked on 13 points, and the rebounding and putback prowess of Maliyah Parks, who chipped in 13 points of her own. Guard Harleigh Chastain also helped pad the team’s lead with a trio of timely 3-pointers.
“We knew this was going to be a tough, competitive game, especially in this environment,” Sonoraville head coach Stephanie Caudell said. “So I give a lot of credit to these girls and the way that they were able to step up and make big shots throughout the game in an atmosphere like this.”
Just as Caudell alluded to, the contest couldn’t have been tighter throughout the first sixteen minutes of the game. The first quarter featured both team’s leaning on its offensive strengths to jumpstart a rapid pace while trading baskets and knotting the score at 19 each at its conclusion.
The second quarter was more of a defensive struggle, with each team tightening its defensive strategy and making the necessary adjustments to try and slow down each other’s key players. The two squad’s managed to each add nine points to its totals headed into the half.
“I think that the way we defended tonight was pretty special,” Caudell said. “They have a lot of players that can score in a variety of ways, particularly in the post, so I was proud of the way that our post players were able to get their hands on some of Calhoun’s passes and the way that our guards were able to apply pressure and make things a little more difficult for them.”
The scoring picked up a bit after the break, but no team was able to create significant separation on the scoreboard. The third quarter finished with Calhoun (8-8, 2-1) clinging to a two-point lead at 43-41.
However, that lead was quickly erased in the opening ticks of the fourth quarter when the Lady Phoenix caught fire to piece together a 12-1 scoring run, one which included made baskets from five different players, to seize control of the game and finish out the quarter with a 23-8 edge and the 64-51 victory.
“In such a close game, you have to step up and make those clutch shots, and that’s what we were able to do in that fourth quarter,” Caudell said. “It was great because we had so many different players contribute huge plays for us down the stretch.”
Even though Calhoun fell victim to Sonoraville’s late surge, the Lady Jackets did enjoy substantial contributions from Railey Greeson, who knocked down five 3-pointers for 15 points, Erin Davis, who constantly pushed the tempo and added 14 points, and Anna George, whose presence in the paint earned her 13 points.
The Lady Phoenix back at home on Saturday to host Pickens in a non-region contest at 3 p.m. while Calhoun hosts Adairsville on Tuesday at 6 p.m.