Story and Photos by Rusty Ellis
The DeKalb County Tigerettes fell behind early, but battled back to take down district foe Upperman 42-40 on Tuesday.
Upperman’s offense came out of the gate strong in the first, as they held a 17-10 lead at the end of frame. Both teams scored 11 points in the second, leading to a seven-point lead at the halftime break for the Lady Bees.
DeKalb County got on the comeback trail in the third, as Kadee Ferrell and Natalie Snipes combined for seven straight points to cut the deficit down to 23-19. The Lady Bees responded by pushing the lead back to 28-21, but the Tigerettes refused to go away quietly and took the lead at 32-31 on an Avery Agee three with 4:26 in the frame.
The Lady Bees responded with an 8-2 run to close the frame, punctuated by a Jayla Cobb and-1 layup to give Upperman a 39-34 lead heading to the fourth.
The DeKalb County defense locked down in the final frame, as they held Upperman to just one point and outscored them 8-1. Sophomore Ella VanVranken scored the game-winning points at the free throw line with 4.6 seconds left, and Upperman was unable to answer, falling 42-40.
VanVranken led the way with 14 points, while Ferrell added 10 for head coach Danny Fish.
“Tremendous effort by a lot of different kids,” Fish said. “We just ran into them tonight and they didn’t knock down enough shots from the perimeter…defensively, we did a great job tonight, and rebounding as well.”
The win was a of the coming-of-age sort for many players, as Agee and Xharia Lyons made big plays down the stretch and knocked down crucial shots for the Tigerettes. While it hasn’t come easy this season, Fish says these are the flashes that he’s seen that excite him about his team.
“They’re going to have to (hit shots),” Fish said. “That’s what we’ve been talking about all year…some players are going to have to step up their game, and tonight they did. We’ve seen signs of a good team…hopefully, we’re becoming more consistent.”
On the Upperman side of things, the Lady Bees were led by Brooklyn Crouch’s 15 and Jayla Cobb’s nine, but the offensive struggles in the fourth proved to be just a little too much for head coach Dana McWilliams’ team.
“If you don’t play any better than you did tonight, results are going to turn out like that tonight,” McWilliams said. “We had every look we wanted…we had a lot of pretty easy looks I thought. There’s nowhere to go, but up.”
The Upperman Bees bounced back from a tough loss to Livingston Academy with a 59-42 win over the Tigers.
Both teams came out slow on offense, but a last-second shot from Rex Davis gave the Bees an 11-9 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Bees’ defense allowed them to push the lead a little further in the second, as they outscored the Tigers 17-8 to take a 28-17 lead into the break.
The lead grew further in the third, as Upperman once again outscored DeKalb County 17-12. In the fourth, the Bees held strong on defense and walked away with a 59-42 district victory.
Davis led the way with 17 points, while A.J. Nash scored 14 of his own. Davis appeared to find an advantage early in the game, as he was aggressive from the jump.
“He’d been sick last week, but he feels way better,” said head coach Bobby McWilliams. “I’m just really happy for him, he’s coming into his own and he’s starting to be a little bit more of a leader which is what this team needed.”
McWilliams has another big test for his team ahead of him on Friday when they take on White County, though he’s been very clear about taking things day-by-day with this team. And it’s an approach that seems like it’s starting to pay off.
“We’re going one game at a time, win or lose,” McWilliams said. “The next day, we’re just right back to business. Give them credit for staying the course and keep plugging away…they know it’s a big one, Sparta on the road. We’ll take it one game at a time and one practice at a time and see what happens.”
The Bees will take on White County in Sparta on Friday, while the Tigers are slated to take on Macon County on Thursday.