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BASKETBALL: Model girls clamp down on defense

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Getting their first minutes in the Region 7-AA tournament, the Model Lady Blue Devils had to push to score points but balanced that with the team’s defensive focus to defeat Pepperell 50-17 on Friday.

The win secures Model a home game in the first round of the Class AA state playoffs, which start next week, and a spot in the region championship game tonight against Rockmart. Pepperell will play Gordon Central today at Model High School to determine the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds from the region.

Model (21-3) had not played in a week after finishing the regular season last Friday with a win at Dade County to complete an undefeated region schedule. The Lady Devils opened the game with an 11-5 lead after the first period, and Pepperell scored just 12 more points the rest of the game.

“We came out offensively a little shaky to start the game, but defensively we were steady from the start,” Model coach Sally Echols said. “And that’s been our mentality day in and day out, so I’m glad to see that come through today.”

Nine Lady Devils reached the scoring column as the point distribution was mostly spread evenly among the defending region champions. Senior Victaria Saxton led the way with 10 points, while Megan Kent had eight. Moe Welch and Montana Moats each finished with seven.

Grace Hufford and Caroline Clark scored five points apiece to pace the Lady Dragons, who were held scoreless in the third period as Model produced a 16-0 run in the quarter.

The contest was the first region semifinal game of the day and pitted the tournament’s top seed — Model — against its bottom seed after the Lady Dragons had upset both Coosa and Chattooga earlier in the week.

“You can’t take anything for granted. A seed is only a seed, and you still have to show up to play,” Echols said. “Pepperell showed that this week and had an amazing start to the tournament.”

Pepperell (6-17) dealt with some adversity in the game as head coach Jeff Rickman was not on the Lady Dragons’ bench after becoming ill earlier in the day. Assistant coach Emily Claytor stepped in as acting coach.

Model will face Rockmart today at 7 p.m. in the region championship game, while Pepperell and Gordon Central play at 2 p.m. The tournament is being hosted at Model High School.

Rockmart girls 64, Gordon Central 51

A pair of freshmen set the pace for both teams in Region 7-AA’s second girls’ semifinal match of the night, but Rockmart pulled away in the third period to earn the 64-51 win over Gordon Central.

The Lady Jackets (19-7) were led by freshman Keyarah Berry’s 24 points, while Gordon Central got a whopping 33 points from freshman Mercedes Coleman.

The Lady Warriors (10-13) kept the game close through three-and-a-half periods, but Rockmart outscored its opponent 15-6 in the third and led 50-29 at one point in the fourth.

Rockmart will play for the region title against three-time defending champion Model today at 7 p.m. at Model. Gordon Central takes on Pepperell in the consolation final at 2 p.m.