A strong statement was made Friday at the Huffman Center as the Darlington girls’ basketball team took to their home court for possibly the last time this season.
The Lady Tigers opened the Class A Private state playoffs with a 70-27 win over Our Lady of Mercy to advance to the second round, where they will take on Mt. Paran on the road next week.
Darlington (23-4) was slotted in the No. 9 spot, just missing being seeded high enough to get a bye in the first round. In the Class A Private Power Ratings, the top eight teams get byes.
“Anytime we can play here, we would like to do that,” Darlington coach Hazel Hall said. “It’s a shame that things turned out the way they did and that we’re not going to get another opportunity to do that. We’ll do what we’ve got to do on the road and try to upset somebody. Basically, that’s what we’re down to now.”
Friday’s game could be the last for Darlington’s seniors on their home court as the Lady Tigers now likely face a string of higher-seeded teams. Three of the seniors saw playing time against the Lady Bobcats (13-14), while Karoline Hunt had to sit out because of a knee injury. Caroline Dingler, Olivia Adams and Kia Stocks helped carry the Lady Tigers to the win.
Hall looked back fondly on her time spent with the seniors as their final season with Darlington nears its end. Hall was an assistant coach prior to her time as head coach, and has spent all four years with three of the players, while Stocks transferred to Darlington last year.
“This is the group that I came here with,” Hall said. “They came in as ninth graders and have played a lot of minutes. We’ve had great leadership this year, which a lot of times is difficult, but they have provided us with great leadership, and it’s going to be a really hard group to let go.”
The Lady Tigers jumped out early on against Our Lady of Mercy, taking a 22-3 lead after the first quarter and a 39-14 lead at halftime.
“I thought we had really good ball movement,” Hall said. “We shot it well early, which is always a big deal to us. When we shoot it well early, we are usually in pretty good shape, but sometimes, when we don’t, we kind of panic a little bit and force things a little too much, but we shot it well early, and that was a big key to our defense.”
Darlington’s defense overwhelmed the Lady Bobcats as the Lady Tigers used a full-court press for most of the game, keeping their opponents from hitting a field goal through the first nine minutes of the game. The Lady Bobcats’ points scored in the first quarter were all from free throws.
“We’re pretty good defensively,” Hall said. “We’ve gotten better as the year goes on. We tried to do some different stuff today that we’ve been working on a little bit just to add to what we have. I thought we played pretty well.”
Dingler led the Lady Tigers with 15 points and Adams added seven points. Emmaline Ratledge and JyJy Johnson each scored 14 points.
The Lady Tigers will now travel to Kennesaw to face Mt. Paran on Wednesday at 6 p.m., which earned a bye through the first round as the No. 8 team. The Lady Tigers have already faced Mt. Paran once this season when they were defeated by the Lady Eagles 59-38 in the semifinals of last week’s Region 6-A tournament.
“We had a really physical game with them the other day,” Hall said. “So we’re anticipating more of the same, and we’ve been preparing for that already. We’re really going to be preparing for that for the next two days.”
Rome girls 59,
Southwest DeKalb 56
The Rome High girls opened the Class 5A state playoffs with an upset on the road for the second straight season.
The fourth-seeded Lady Wolves (20-9) eked out a 59-56 win against top-seeded Southwest DeKalb (21-7) on Friday snapping a 10-game winning streak for the Lady Panthers.
Rome will look to upset another team next week when the Lady Wolves travel to face Veterans, which upset No. 2 seed Griffin, in the second round.
Marist girls 65,
Cedartown’s girls saw their season come to an end Friday in the opening round of the Class 4A state playoffs.
The Lady Bulldogs were overwhelmed by top-seeded Marist 65-21 on the road Friday.
Keke Turner scored 11 points to lead Cedartown (11-13), and Zoe Diamond-Pasley added eight points.
Marist (26-1) was led by Riley Dunhue with 16 points and Tyler Brazle with 11 points.