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GIRLS BASKETBALL: Lady Tigers take over top spot in 6-A/A with win over SACA

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Darlington senior Bailey Brock (left) goes up for a layup against SACA senior Alexis Carter at the Huffman Athletic Center, January 15, 2013. (Brittany Hannah/RN-T)

Brittany Hannah

In a match-up between two of the highest ranked teams in the state, the Darlington girls downed the Southwest Atlanta Christian Lady Warriors, 47-46, at the Huffman Center.

It didn’t look like such a tough match-up in the first half — in fact, it looked like the Lady Tigers had the win in the bag over the No. 1 Lady Warriors.

But a second half comeback rally brought SACA within a point, only to be downed by the Lady Tigers who held on to their lead for just long enough to get the W.

“(The early lead) ended up being really important, considering we were holding on for dear life in the last five minutes of the game,” said Darlington coach Josh Hembree.

The Lady Tigers got out to a 7-0 lead in the first two minutes of the first quarter, and went into the second quarter with a 17-10 edge over the Lady Warriors.

Darlington outscored SACA again in the second quarter to stretch their lead to 31-19.

The first few minutes of the third quarter was much of the same as the Lady Tigers stretched their lead out to 41-26, their largest of the night – but that lead was about to get tested.

A short score run sparked the SACA offense who outscored the Lady Tigers 13-10 in the third quarter.

The fourth quarter saw just six points from Darlington, and the Lady Warriors took the opportunity to rally for a comeback by posting 14 of their own points.

But those six points were just enough to hold off the comeback, and defeat SACA for a critical Region 6-A/A win.

“They came out and executed our game plan and what we wanted to do,” said Hembree.

“We felt like our press gave them a lot of trouble in the first half. We were getting tips on balls, and we were very under control and very calm in the first half. We jump stopped, we made good decisions and we knocked down some shots.

“Of course Terar (Stewart) was huge, obviously. It turned out she was also huge in the second half, so that was big, but our girls just fought and fought and fought.”

Stewart was the game’s leading scorer with 22 points and scored one of the crucial fourth quarter baskets along with Rachel Simon and Maggie Beth Atha.

Atha was Darlington’s second leading scorer with eight points.

To Hembree, it’s no surprise that this win wasn’t as easy as it appeared to be in the first half.

“There’s no doubt Southwest Atlanta Christian is one of the best teams in Class A and possibly in all classifications. They’ve got athletes galore. They’re just an incredible team, so to get a win against them is a feat for these young ladies.”

The Lady Tigers served SACA (14-2, 4-1) their first region loss and only their second loss of the season, while Darlington (11-4, 4-0) remains undefeated in Region 6-A/A.

The victory was not only a region boost, but a confidence boost for the Lady Tigers, who saw this win as verification for their hard work.

“Hopefully (beating SACA) says that we’re doing the right thing. The girls are working hard everyday, and they’re seeing that pay off,” said Hembree.

“Every single one of them contributed in some way, so we’re excited about that.”

Darlington will host Christian Heritage on Friday.