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PREP BASKETBALL: Rome, Model make push to earn spots in tournament championship

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Two familiar teams will fight for the Gold Ball Trophy tonight as the Model Lady Blue Devils and the Rome Lady Wolves return to the Christmas Tournament championship game.

Model outlasted a tough Darlington squad 57-47 on Thursday, while Rome took control early in its 67-36 win over Calhoun.

The two teams, which have won 14 of the last 20 tournament titles, will meet again in a rematch of last year’s championship game tonight at 7 p.m. at Berry College’s Cage Center.

Here’s a closer look at Thursday’s girls’ semifinal games:

Model girls 57, Darlington 47

A game featuring the two girls’ teams that have won seven of the last nine Gold Ball Trophies fought all four quarters in the first semifinal Thursday at Berry College, but Model was able to keep Darlington at bay for a 57-47 victory.

The Lady Devils built an eight-point lead early and were up 17-9 after the first quarter, but Darlington picked up the pace in the second with 3-pointers from Caroline Dingler, Annabelle Braden and Sydney Seymour helping get them to within two, 22-20, with 4:08 left in the half.

But Model (10-2) finished on a 7-0 run before the break and the Lady Tigers were never able to get as close again.

“Darlington has a great young team, and they played very well defensively,” Model coach Sally Echols said.

“Our defense created a spark for us at critical moments and you always want to see that, but they put up a great game against us.”

Model had three players finish in double figures in the game, led by newcomer Megan Kent who scored 16. Moe Welch followed with 12 points, while Libby Upton scored 10, including a pair of 3-pointers.

Lady Devil standout Victaria Saxton played limited minutes and finished with nine points, but Kent stepped in for the 6-foot senior when she was on the bench. The junior was able to quickly get the ball to create turnovers or simply pull Darlington out of its game.

“We had contributions from a lot of players, and that was a big part of the game,” Echols said. “We do ride V a lot of times, but this wasn’t a normal game. We had a lot of girls step up and I’m proud of how they came through.”

Seymour paced the scrappy Darlington team with a game-high 20 points, which included two treys, while Dingler finished with 11 and Braden had eight.

Model moves on to defend its Christmas Tournament title tonight at 7 p.m. against Rome at Berry College’s Cage Center. Darlington isn’t done yet, as the Lady Tigers will face Calhoun in the third-place game at 4 p.m.

Rome girls 67, Calhoun 36

Rome’s Lady Wolves put on a scoring clinic in the final semifinal at Georgia Highlands College as nine different players scored in Rome’s 67-36 win over Calhoun to advance to tonight’s championship game.

Rome (6-1) had the upper hand in the game from the get-go, and it was evident. Re’Tavia Floyd knocked down two of her four total 3-pointers in the quarter as the Lady Wolves led 20-10 at the end of the period. Floyd finished with a game-high 20 points for the Lady Wolves.

The second quarter saw Rome build on their lead as the Lady Wolves went on a 15-4 run to take a 35-14 lead into the locker room.

The final two periods of the game were much of the same for Rome. Floyd put up 11 points in the second half, while Tamiya Griffin and Jordan Wilder added six apiece. Calhoun (3-4) cut the Rome lead to 20 via nine points from Anna George in the second half.

“We’re just trying to continue to consistently play hard,” Rome coach Jason Harris said. “We’re playing for not just this (tournament), but we’re trying to prepare our girls for our region stretch, which starts in January. It’s nice to be advancing to tomorrow night’s championship, but we’ve got a bigger picture in mind, and that’s trying to get better for our region and hopefully state.”

Rome got 11 points from Tarrah Gibson while George paced Calhoun with 12 points.

The Lady Wolves will face fellow Floyd County foe Model for the tournament title today at 7 p.m. at Berry College’s Cage Center, while Calhoun goes up against Darlington in the third-place game at 4 p.m.

Sports Editor Jeremy Stewart and correspondent Jay Hawkins contributed to this report.