The Sonoraville Lady Phoenix made two clutch shots late in their Class AAA State Tournament first-round matchup on Friday night, but unfortunately Cedar Grove had the final one.
Sonoraville rallied from a 38-34 deficit with under two minutes to play to take a late one-point lead thanks to a 3-pointer from Harleigh Chastain and a driving lay-in by Maliyah Parks, but the Lady Saints responded with a lay-up from Gemini Wilson with 23.2 seconds left that proved to be the game-winner in a 40-39 Cedar Grove win.
The Lady Phoenix (18-9) got a couple opportunities to answer, but Cedar Grove forced a turnover on the first and a 3-pointer as time expired bounced off the iron following a missed free throw from the Lady Saints to bring Sonoraville’s season to a sudden end.
Sonoraville coach Stephanie Caudell said she wanted for her players to push the ball up the court after the late free throw miss by Cedar Grove to see what kind of look they could get at the basket, but the ball just didn’t fall on the final shot.
“I thought about (using a timeout), but I felt like we were going to have a better chance to get something good in the open court,” said Caudell. “It wasn’t a terrible look, but it just didn’t go in. We had drawn something up in the last timeout, and we didn’t really execute it. But credit to Cedar Grove, their defense came up with a turnover. We had a chance at the end, but unfortunately it didn’t go our way.”
The second half was tight throughout with neither team getting into an offensive rhythm in large part to their opponent’s gritty, determined effort on the defensive end. Cedar Grove (12-6) led 26-23 midway through the third quarter, but Sonoraville rattled off seven straight points to take a 30-26 lead late in the period. The Lady Saints got a bucket in the closing seconds of the third to pull within 30-28 going to the final quarter.
Cedar Grove carried the momentum over into the fourth, scoring the first two baskets of the period to take a 32-30 lead, but the Lady Phoenix came right back with as Parks converted close to the basket to tie it up and then a couple free throws on the next two possessions gave the home team a 34-32 lead with 4:42 to play.
The Lady Saints put together a 6-0 run to go up 38-34 and put Sonoraville on the ropes before Chastain’s 3-pointer with 1:44 left and Parks’ shot with 1:06 left gave the Lady Phoenix a 39-38 lead to set up the dramatic final minute that didn’t go in their favor.
“I was happy for Harleigh to hit that shot,” said Caudell. “She is a great kid and a leader as a senior, and I was happy for her to knock that one down. That was a big shot to get us right back in it, and then Maliyah came through like she has many times this year. This team has a lot of fight in them, and they have all year. They don’t get too down when things aren’t going their way in a game, and we usually come back with something good when we need it most. We battled back in those last two minutes, but Cedar Grove made a big play at the end.”
Parks led the Lady Phoenix in scoring with 11 points, five coming in the fourth quarter, and was the lone player from her team in double figures. Grace Darnell added seven, including a pair of 3s, Lindsay Bowman scored six points on a pair of 3s, and Chastain contributed five points.
Sonoraville opened the game strong, taking an 11-8 lead late in the first quarter before the Lady Saints scored the final six points of the period to take a 14-11 lead at the end of it. The defenses dug in for the second quarter and made everything difficult for the opposition. Cedar Grove took a 21-13 lead midway through the period, but a bucket from Alexa Geary and the two straight 3s from Bowman gave Sonoraville life and tied things at 21-21 before the Lady Saints hit a late free throw to take a 22-21 lead into the half.
Caudell said Cedar Grove’s stout defense and deliberate offensive style was a different kind of matchup than her team had seen this season.
“We definitely haven’t played anyone else that played that style with that much quickness on defense and uses a lot of clock on offense,” said Caudell. “They try to make the game ugly and play the way they want it to be played. They take so many possessions away from you just by how much they work the clock when they have the ball. We didn’t shoot it very well tonight, and put that together with less possessions, and this was the result.”
Chastain is one of three seniors that played their final game for Sonoraville on Friday. They will also lose Kolbey Smith and Sandi McMullin to graduation, but they have a lot of players coming back that gained valuable experience this year. Caudell said she is excited about next year but also sad to see the three seniors’ career come to an end.
“This was such a fun year,” said Caudell. “We had several girls grow up right before our eyes this season. Most of them are coming back so we have a good core group of girls, and I’m excited about the future. I hate it for our seniors. You never want it to end, but they have had great careers here and are going to do great things after this.
“The group I have coming back are hard workers, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do next year.”
Cedar Grove moves on to the second round where they will visit Franklin County on Wednesday.