Both teams took turns exchanging runs, it just happened Grovetown’s biggest was a little more decisive.
Backed by a dominating stretch to end the first half, the Lady Warriors defeated Butler, 44-29, on Tuesday in the first round of the Region 3-AAA girls basketball tournament at Josey High School.
“Oh, we had to hang on,” Grovetown coach Jamie Echols said. “But I told them it would be a game of spurts.”
The Lady Warriors (17-9) held Butler to only one field goal for most of the first half. After the Lady Bulldogs made the first basket of the game, they didn’t get their second one until less than two minutes remained in the second quarter.
During the drought, Grovetown guard Malia Kency provided a chunk of her team’s points, hitting three 3s in the first period and showing nice touch on a drive in the lane. Kency led all players with 20 points.
Later, with help from Khadijah Sandifer’s back-to-back 3-pointers, the Lady Warriors jumped out to a 28-7 halftime lead behind a 16-3 run to end the first half.
However, Butler did get as close as 11 points, mostly behind improved defense and impressive long-range shooting from Jewel Sturgis.
Worried about Butler’s height advantage, Grovetown remained in the zone even when Sturgis strung together 3-pointers in the second half.
Sturgis tried to carry the rally attempt, hitting five 3s in the second half.
She scored 18 points in the game, with her final 3 bringing it to just 40-29 Grovetown as the Lady Bulldogs went on a 22-12 run in the second half.
“Hopefully we’ll learn how to play as a team for 32 minutes,” Lady Bulldogs coach Keisha Stewart said.
But Grovetown had time on its side, doing its best to have Kency dribble away some seconds before the Lady Warriors added points on late free throws as Butler tried to extend the game by fouling.
Though Grovetown got the win, it will have to defeat defending state champion Washington County on Thursday if it’s going to make the state playoffs.
It’s a challenge Echols hopes his team embraces.
“You can’t shy away from that,” Echols said.