Originally created 02/12/99

Under Dogs continue roll in region play



In every tournament, there always seems to be some sort of Cinderella story.

Maybe that label can be applied to the Thomson Lady Bulldogs, who proved that you don't always have to have the biggest lineup to win a basketball game.

On Thursday night at the Augusta State Athletic Complex in the Region 3-AAA Tournament semifinals, Thomson upended heavily favored Laney to set up tonight's contest with Dublin, who defeated Burke County 48-37 in the first contest of the afternoon.

The Lady Irish, who finished as the second seed from the Region 3-AAA (B) subregion, will meet the Lady Bulldogs, who finished as the fourth seed from the Region 3-AAA (A) subregion, tonight at 7 p.m. for the Region 3-AAA title and the right to be the region's top seed heading into next weekend's state tournament at Richmond Academy.

In other games, the second-ranked Statesboro Blue Devils (26-2) held Dublin to just six points in the third quarter while running away with a 66-50 boys victory, earning a berth in tonight's Region 3-AAA championship game against the winner of Thursday's late Josey-Thomson contest.

In girls action, both of the higher seeds, Laney and Burke County, were upset on Thursday. But the good news is that each of the teams who took part in Thursday's semifinal games each qualify for the Class AAA state tournament that begins next Friday and Saturday.

Underdog Thomson capitalized on every opportunity that it was given and proved good ball-handling and making free throws are the key ingredients in any basketball game.

Thomson has now beaten Westside on Monday night at Richmond Academy, Statesboro in Statesboro on Tuesday night and Laney Thursday night at Augusta State. Lady Bulldog coach Al Young admitted he was concerned with his team playing three games in four days and battling the fatigue factor.

"The bottom line is this team never gave up tonight," Young said. "We figured Laney would start off fast and I told our girls not to let that bother them. We stuck with our game plan and we didn't let them dictate us."

Laney got 17 points from freshman Sheena Freeman and 13 points from junior point guard Ernesia Wideman but it wasn't enough. The Lady Wildcats missed too many open shots, committed too many turnovers and hit just six of 14 free throws in the game.

If that wasn't enough, Laney also couldn't stop Thomson freshman sensation Monique Martin, who burned the Lady Wildcats with 18 points in the game, but 14 of those came in the second half to help put the Lady Dogs in position to win the game.

"They (Laney) were very physical under there (basket)," said the soft-spoken Martin. "But this game was important to me because this is my first year of playing on the varsity basketball team."

As a result of Thomson's red-hot play, Young will get his first chance to win a girls region basketball title in his five seasons at the school.

The Lady Wildcats, who were considered by many to be the region favorites, certainly had their chances and almost found a way to win even when it seemed nothing could go right.

They led 20-11 at halftime, and increased their lead to 12 points on two free throws by Freeman to open the second half.

But then Thomson used a 13-2 run over the next 2:37 to trim the lead to 25-22 on a three-point play from Star Jackson with 4:42 left in the fourth. But they didn't stop there. A minute and half later, a bucket from Tasha Edwards gave the Lady Bulldogs their first lead of the contest since the opening minutes of the contest.

Laney would fight back. They opened the fourth quarter on a 11-4 run to regain the lead at 40-36, forcing seven turnovers and seemingly regaining control of the game.

However, after holding Thomson scoreless for 3:05 midway through the fourth quarter, the Lady Bulldogs erupted for nine straight points and held on for the victory.

In the first contest of the day, Dublin's Lady Irish (19-4) started slowly, but during the fourth quarter, they outscored the Lady Bears 19-14 and never looked back, finishing off a three-game sweep of Burke this season.

Dublin got 11 points from Natalie McLendon whil Annie Walker led Burke with 12 points.