PETTICOAT JUNCTION --- A few key elements were missing in the Silver Bluff gymnasium as game time arrived Tuesday for the Class AA first round state tournament matchup between the Lady Bulldogs and Garrett Academy.
Silver Bluff's top two scorers were gone.
Jamie Foreman and Cellonda Crawford had been suspended from the game for "school disciplinary reasons," according to coach Robert McKenzie.
Also missing: Garrett Acad-emy.
The Lady Falcons arrived two minutes before the scheduled 7 p.m. tip-off and missed their opportunity to warm up. Garrett head coach Ron Gadsden blamed traffic for the team's tardiness. His five starters took the floor without a single warm-up shot, and it proved costly in a 59-42 Silver Bluff win.
"That didn't help," Gadsden said. "We should have beaten that team, too."
With Foreman and Crawford watching from the bench, Silver Bluff trapped its way to victory thanks to the backcourt of Danielle Bush and Khadajah Simpkins.
The two guards combined for 19 points and disrupted the Garrett guards before the Lady Falcons could set up their offense.
"We knew we'd have to approach this game a little bit different. We knew we'd have to trap more and keep the pressure on," McKenzie said. "We did that more than we had all year."
The Lady Bulldogs also got help from 6-foot-3 sophomore Taylor Muterspaugh. The forward came off the bench during the regular season to help Silver Bluff claim its first girls basketball region title and enter the state playoffs as a No. 1 seed.
Muterspaugh started Tuesday and led the team with 14 points.
"We had to make up for all those points and rebounds we lost (with Foreman and Crawford out)," Muterspaugh said. "We knew we were going to be without them, so it was up to us to step up."
Garrett took a brief 15-13 lead to start the second quarter, but Muterspaugh hit four consecutive free throws to spark an 8-0 run.
The Lady Bulldogs led by eight at halftime and outscored their opponent 30-21 in the second half to seal the victory.
Silver Bluff advanced to the second round of the playoffs with another home game on Friday night, but McKenzie said he's not sure if Foreman and Crawford will be off their suspension by then.
"It's a school disciplinary situation," he said. "It's out of my hands."
Reach Billy Byler at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.