Dragons Sweep Meeting With Cumberland County

Story and Photos by Rusty Ellis

The York Institute Dragonettes finished off a 3-0 week with their 55-47 win over Cumberland County on Friday night.

The game opened with both teams making shots back-and-forth, leading to a four-point lead for the Dragonettes after the first quarter. The lead grew to as much as nine points before half, but Emery Baragona kept the Lady Jets within striking distance with a three to beat the buzzer. That cut York’s lead down to 30-24 at halftime.

The third quarter saw York begin to put some distance between themselves and CCHS, as they took a 45-33 lead into fourth. There, they closed down the 55-47 win to finish their week 3-0.

Gabby Beaty led the way with 20 points, while Reese Beaty followed close behind with 18 for the Dragonettes, who coach Michael Johnson said did a good job of moving on from Thursday’s win over Clay County and focusing on this game.

“This was our third game in four days, it’s a grind for them,” Johnson said. “If you get to Murfreesboro, that’s what you’re going to have to do when you get there…tonight, they came in, punched the time clock and went to work for 32 minutes.”

The Dragonettes did a great job of holding Cumberland to just one shot at the defensive end of the floor, something that Johnson knows they’ll have to keep doing to win games.

“We have to rebound to reach the potential we have,” Johnson said. “We let Emery Baragona light us up a bit in the first half, but we tightened things up a bit…all in all, I’m proud of them especially for the games we had this week.”

The Dragons had their turn to show the crowd a great game, as they defeated Cumberland County 68-65.

This game got off to a fast start at both ends, but it was the Jets who took an 18-17 lead over York on a layup just before the first-quarter horn. A late score would change leads again in the second quarter, as Blaine York drilled a three to give the Dragons a 31-29 lead at the break.

For the third consecutive quarter, someone hit a buzzer-beater, this one in the form of a Jackson Conatser three-pointer to give the Dragons a 50-44 lead heading into the final frame.

York pushed their lead to as much as 11 points by the midway point of the fourth, but the Jets battled back and tied the game at 65 with less than a minute remaining. The Dragons got the ball with 15 seconds left on the clock, as Nic Smith knocked down a layup and got the foul call with 5.8 seconds remaining in the game.

After converting the and-1, the Dragons held the Jets without a shot attempt to seal the win 68-65.

Smith led the way with 18 for York, while Jon Heddings scored 16. Zach Byrd added 12 points, and Blaine York chipped in 11 points of his own for the Dragons, as head coach Rodney Pile says he loved the way his team fought on Friday.

“That’s what I most-admire about this team: they always battle,” Pile said. “They figure out ways to win. Sometimes it’s not pretty, but they’ve been getting the job done.”

Byrd’s minutes in particular were crucial for the Dragons, as he helped control the boards and add to the lead with put-back buckets.

“He really hit the boards and really had some good post moves,” Pile said. “He’s just got to work on doing that more consistently, because for the first part of the third quarter, he dominated. The game changed after that. I’m very proud of how he responded.”

The Dragons still have six games left before they begin district play, and Pile says he’s pleased with how his team is playing with that part of the schedule looming on the horizon.

“I feel really good,” Pile said. “We’ve still got a lot left, but I feel really good about it…most of our games, we’ve had to play strategically down to the end. Understanding how to play that way and take care of the ball in pressure times, hopefully that’ll pay off for us later.”

Both the Dragons and Dragonettes will take part in the Sonic Shootout in Sparta beginning on Monday.