ROME — Once teams get to the region tournament portion of their schedule, tomorrow is no longer assured. One loss means early in the bracket means your season is over, plain and simple
The Gordon Central Lady Warriors used that pressure to play with a sense of urgency from the start on Monday night in their Region 7-AA Tournament opening-round matchup at Model High against Dade County, and their reward was a chance to play another day.
The Lady Warriors came out of the gates strong and finished strong to earn a 62-47 victory over Dade County to keep their season alive and advance to the second round on Tuesday where they squared off against Armuchee with a state tournament berth on the line.
“We started great and finished great tonight,” said Gordon Central coach Matt Swanson. “I challenged the girls early in the fourth quarter and asked how much they wanted this, how important it was to them. We responded by getting stops and really holding (Dade County) to one shot on almost every possession. Cara (Crump) made a huge difference tonight like she has the last couple weeks, and Mercedes just did what she’s done all year. She was aggressive even when she was in foul trouble. We got some big plays out of our seniors too with Leslie Gutierrez hitting some big shots. She is the perfect picture of senior leadership, and really all our seniors are.
“We talked about our goals over the summer back when we went to camp, and we made it a team goal to make it to the state tournament. Now, we have an opportunity to make that happen with a win tomorrow. Armuchee is a really good team, but if we play the way we’re capable of, we can beat them.”
Gordon Central (8-13) jumped out to an early advantage thanks to some hot shooting and ability to get to the rim.
They led 19-10 after the first quarter, in which they hit three 3-pointers. Dade County battled back into the contest in the second quarter and finished the half on an 8-0 run to cut their deficit to 27-26 going into the locker room.
The Lady Warriors built as much as a seven-point lead twice in the third quarter, but each time Dade County (5-21) rallied back to within one or two possessions. Gordon Central held a 43-38 lead going to the fourth quarter.
The Lady Wolverines stayed in the game with some big buckets early in the fourth, but after they got the Gordon Central lead down to four at 47-43 at the 3:29 of the period, the Lady Warriors took control by finishing the game on a 15-4 run to seal the victory. They went 9-of-11 from the free throw line down the stretch.
Mercedes Coleman led the way for Gordon Central with a game-high 25 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter. Cara Crump added 16 points and went 6-of-6 at the free throw line in the contest.
“Mercedes hates to lose,” said Swanson. “In the fourth quarter when we had the lead and she had four fouls, most of the time you would want to slow the ball down and work the clock, but she wanted to keep pushing it to the basket and try to extend the lead. Cara has been huge for us the last few games. This time last year, Cara was the best player on the floor for us. Then she suffered a knee injury over the summer and has worked her tail off to get back to playing this well. The last three games she has been an all-region quality player.”
Olivia Fleming, another one of Gordon Central’s four seniors, added eight points, including a couple big 3-pointers in the first quarter. Gutierrez scored six points on her two made 3s.
Jayda Wood scored 14 to lead Dade County, and Megan Schauer added 13.
Gordon Central moves within one win of clinching a state tournament berth for the first time in program history as they square off with Armuchee on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
In the Gordon Central boys’ opening-round game earlier on Monday:
Coosa boys 64, Gordon Central 60
ROME – After a tough regular season, the Gordon Central boys put that all aside and laid it all on the line on Monday night in a do-or-die contest in the first round of the Region 7-AA Tournament at Model High against Coosa, but unfortunately they came up just short.
The Warriors (1-21) competed throughout all four quarters against the Eagles as the game stayed within one or two possessions all night. Coosa (11-15) made enough plays down the stretch, however, including going 8-of-12 from the free throw line in the fourth, to close out the victory.
“When you come into the region tournament with a record of 1-20, it would be easy for the kids to not be motivated but our guys believed they had a chance tonight and played like it,” said Gordon Central coach Derrick Broom. “We battled for four quarters and never quit. Unfortunately we came out on the wrong end of it, but I have no problems at all with the effort my guys put out there tonight.”
Gordon Central built an early 13-4 lead in the first quarter before Coosa battled back to trail by just two at 14-12 at the end of the period. More back-and-forth action ensued in the second quarter with the Eagles jumping ahead 29-27 at the half.
The third quarter featured four lead changes and two ties with each team answering the other with big shot after big shot, but Coosa held on to a slim 48-47 lead at the end of the period with Gordon Centrals’ Quinton Lockett draining a 3-pointer at the buzzer to pull his team within one.
Coosa started the fourth quarter on an 8-1 run to build a 56-48 lead, which proved to be the game-clinching sequence. Gordon Central never got closer than four points off the lead from that point on as the Eagles sealed the game at the free throw line.
Quan Curtis led the Warriors with 19 points. Lockett was equally as clutch with 18 points, including four 3s and 13 points in the second half.
“That is two seniors right there that didn’t want their season and career to end,” said Broom. “Quinton has learned a lot this season and has improved to become a big part of our team. Quan has been a leader since Day 1, and we expected that out of him game in and game out. They are both good players, and the goal now is to get them to the next level.”
Dawson Lackey added 13 points for Gordon Central with nine points coming in the first half. Turner Mathis contributed seven points as well.
Kenon Dixon had the hot hand for Coosa with a game-high 24 points, including an impressive six 3s in the contest. Jaylen Nelson and Sean Brown each added 10 points apiece.
Broom said despite the tough season he is proud of the way his team battled until the end and he expects his returning players to learn from it and improve in the offseason.
“The biggest takeaway from this year is that we never quit,” said Broom. “We were down, but our guys got back up each time. We’ve got a good group coming back, and they have another chance to get better this coming offseason. We have a good group of JV players and eighth-graders coming up that could help us also. We have a chance to continue building this program so that is what we’re focused on.”
Coosa moves on to the next round to face Dade County on Tuesday night.