A year ago, Maggie Beth Atha and Sarah Manning made huge contributions, helping lead Darlington to the Holiday Festival Tournament Title.
On Thursday night at Georgia Highlands, the two players, now seniors, made sure the Tigers would get a chance to defend their title.
The dynamic duo combined to score 47 of the Tigers’ 67 points as Darlington downed Class AAA Cartersville, 67-55.
“That’s a case of seniors stepping up like seniors do. That’s what we want. They would be the first to tell you they couldn’t have done that without the help of their teammates,” Darlington coach Josh Hembree said. “It’s a great team win, but I am proud of those two for stepping up.”
Darlington carried the lead to start the second quarter, but the Purple Hurricanes threatened. Morgan Jones hit back-to-back shots, cutting Darlington’s lead to 35-32 early in the third.
However, Cartersville’s starting point guard, Kaelyn Irby, picked up her fourth foul early in the quarter and left the game.
Darlington took advantage, embarking on a 21-6 run that lasted into the early fourth quarter and left the Tigers with a 56-38 lead.
“We tried to take advantage of it when she (Irby) got her fourth. She is a heck of a player,” Hembree said. “When she went out, we tried to amp up the pressure a little bit. We created some turnovers and turned them into buckets and free throws.”
Cartersville tried to cut into the lead in the fourth, but the Tigers would have none of it, matching the Hurricanes shot for shot and closing out the game.
Atha netted a game-high 26 points, and her running mate Manning added 21 for the Tigers. Ashley Edge added seven points, and Caroline Hunt scored six.
Kimora Clinic led the Hurricanes with 12 points, and Irby added 11.
Cartersville moves into the third-place game today at Berry at 4 p.m. against Woodland.
Darlington advances to the championship game at 7 p.m. at Berry against Pepperell as the Tigers attempt to become the first girl’s team to repeat as champions since Rome in 2009-10.
“It’s going to take everything we’ve got. We know Pepperell is a very good team. They aren’t 11–0 for no good reason,” Hembree said. “They’re the favorites. We are the underdogs. We didn’t event have a winning record until the tournament. We’re trying to play our best and execute what we do. We know we’ll have our hands full tomorrow night.”
Jim Alred is New Media Director for News Publishing Company.