With limited time to gather information and film on an unfamiliar opponent in the first round of the state tournament, there is often a feeling-out period once the game starts.
The Sonoraville Lady Phoenix faced that obstacle in their first-round home matchup on Tuesday night vs. North Hall as they started slow as they figured out what their opponent was bringing on both ends of the court, but once they got in the flow of the game, they were able to methodically take control and pull away for a 69-48 victory to advance to the second round of the Class AAA State Tournament.
The game got off to a competitive start with each team trading baskets in the first quarter before Sonoraville (22-4) finished the period on 10-2 run to take a 17-10 lead.
The Lady Phoenix continued to stretch out their lead slowly but surely in the second quarter, starting the period on a 9-3 run before eventually taking a 35-21 advantage into the half. The home team, coming off their Region 6-AAA Championship win on Saturday, had their most convincing quarter in the third as they outscored the visiting Lady Trojans 17-9 in the period to essentially put the game away as they took a 52-30 lead into the fourth.
“You can only gather so much film and get so familiar with a team in a few days,” said Sonoraville head coach Stephanie Caudell. “We knew they were going to be scrappy, shoot a lot of 3s, be strong fundamentally and aggressive. It took us a few minutes to get used to what they were doing once we got into the game. Defensively, they caused us not to have a really good rhythm early on too. But Alexa (Geary) had a really good first half and kind of carried us until we got our feet underneath us a little bit. She made some tough shots and allowed us to build the lead we had at the half.”
The senior Geary had a big night as she led the way in the Sonoraville victory with 26 points, including four 3-pointers, and all 26 came in the first three quarters. It was also a record-breaking night for Geary as she became the all-time leading scorer for the Lady Phoenix by passing former Sonoraville standout Maliyah Parks’ previous top mark of 1,686 points.
“She made some tough drives to the basket, some floaters and really tough shots,” said Caudell of Geary’s performance. “We needed them too because we didn’t make shots in the first half like we’re used to. She was able to make some good passes to set up teammates too. She draws a lot of attention when she drives to the basket like that, and she was able to dump it off for some nice assists.
“We knew she would probably pass the mark tonight to become the leading scorer. She didn’t know it, and we didn’t want to mention it during the game because we didn’t want to change the focus during a state tournament game. But we were really excited to announce it after the win. It is an awesome accomplishment, and she definitely deserves it. She’s worked so hard. I’ve never had a kid that watches so much film on her own. That shows how much she cares about being the best player she can be.”
The Lady Phoenix started to shoot it better as a team in the second half as they knocked down five 3s and saw the scoring more spread out among the roster. Abby Chambers was also in double figures in scoring with 12 points, including three 3s. Diana Smith added eight, and Matti Parker contributed seven.
The Lady Trojans (9-19) had a balanced scoring night in the season-ending loss as Rylee Thompson led the way with eight, Rylee McCall, Sarah Davidson and Kristina Peach all scored seven and Amelia Shoemaker, Caroline Cape and Annabeth Gilleland each added six.
Sonoraville, who is coming off Elite Eight and Final Four appearances in the last two seasons, will now move forward in the Class AAA bracket and host the winner of the Sandy Creek-East Jackson first-round matchup. The second-round game will take place either Friday or Saturday at The Furnace with a time to be announced.
“It doesn’t have to be pretty…it’s just about surviving and advancing now,” said Caudell of Tuesday’s season-extending win. “That’s the good thing about having a team with so many seniors is that they’ve really seen it all. Nothing fazes them. Hopefully we can keep it going on Friday and get some energy in here in the gym with another big home crowd.”
In other first-round state action on Tuesday night:
Sonoraville Girls 69, North Hall 48
NORTH HALL (48)
Shoemaker 6, C. Cape 6, R. McCall 7, Gilleland 6, Jarrard 1, Thompson 8, Davidson 7, Peach 7
Parker 7, Pasley 3, Steely 2, Bowman 5, Chambers 12, Kelley 2, Geary 26, Long 4, Smith 8
C.C. 10 11 9 18—48
Son. 17 18 17 17—69
3-pointers – North Hall 7 (Shoemaker 2, C. Cape 2, Thompson 2, McCall 1); Sonoraville 9 (Geary 4, Chambers 3, Parker 1, Bowman 1), Free Throws – North Hall 5-12; Sonoraville 6-9, Records –Sonoraville 22-4.