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BASKETBALL: Lady Wolves strike gold at Christmas Tournament

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The weight of each point seeming to count more than face value, Rome and Model battled it out on the basketball court once again Friday night to determine the rightful owner of the Gold Ball Trophy.

And with one final push, the Lady Wolves managed to take this entry in the rivalry.

The championship game stage between Floyd County rivals Rome and Model, who had combined to win 18 of the past 25 Christmas Tournament titles, played out in front of a raucous crowd at a packed Cage Center at Berry College.

In the end, tournament MVP Tamiya Griffin and the Rome Lady Wolves won a thriller for the ages over the Lady Blue Devils, 54-51. The victory by Rome ends a two-year run for Model as the tournament champs.

The game was a back-and-forth affair, but Tarrah Gibson hit two extremely important free throws at the end of the game to put the nail in the coffin, and Rome came out on top.

“It’s just what we work on. We work on free throws in the game. We work on those clutch situations, so it’s just a testament to their hard work at practice paying attention to the details,” Rome coach Jason Harris said.

The first quarter was a defensive battle as neither team scored many points. Model’s Victaria Saxton and Tarrah Gibson of Rome led both teams with six points each in the period.

Both Rome and Model traded blows in the second quarter. Five Lady Wolves put the ball in the basket in the period as Rome took a six-point lead (23-17) at the break.

The final half proved to be even more exciting than the first. Rome (6-1) led Model until late in the fourth quarter when Libby Upton’s shot put the Lady Blue Devils in front 49-48.

Rome quickly tied the game back up at 49 all, as Madison Fielder hit a free throw on the following possession.

Then, Rome’s Re’Tavia Floyd made her two attempts at the foul line to put the Lady Wolves up by two. Model’s Nia Allen followed that up with a game-tying layup.

In the last moments of the game, Justyce Moore made one of her two free throw attempts to put Rome ahead by one. Then, on Rome’s next possession, Tarrah Gibson nailed both of her free throws to put her team up by three to seal the deal, 54-51.

Model (10-3) was led by the outstanding play of Saxton, who had a game-high 20 points and contributed on the defensive side of the ball as well with several steals and multiple blocked shots.

For her efforts, Saxton joined her teammate Upton on the girls’ all-tournament team. Taya Gibson and Tarrah Gibson led Rome with 15 and 14 points respectively. Besides the team taking home the tournament trophy, Griffin, Taya Gibson and Re’Tavia Floyd were named to the all-tournament team.

The Rome Wolves were ecstatic about the victory, but now their attention shifts to region play, and a win in this tourney certainly can’t hurt.

“It prepares us. We needed a win like this to try to solidify what we’re trying to do,” Harris said.

“We’ve had some lopsided wins, so it was time for a gut check. I really liked that we kind of bent but didn’t break, which will prepare us for our region.”

GIRLS ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM

*Tamiya Griffin, Rome

Re’Tavia Floyd, Rome

Taya Gibson, Rome

Victaria Saxton, Model

Libby Upton, Model

Anna George, Calhoun

Sydney Seymour, Darlington

Livia Skinner, Armuchee

Alexa Geary, Sonoraville

Carah Arrant, Coosa

*Tournament MVP