by Rusty Ellis
The DeKalb County Tigers split a non-district doubleheader with Smith County on Tuesday night, starting with the Lady Owls’ win over the Lady Tigers.
After two Ella VanVranken threes gave the visitors a 10-7 lead after the first quarter, Smith County began to find some success in the paint thanks to Elle Haughton and her ability to get to the basket.
She scored six points in the quarter to lead Smith County to a 23-22 lead at halftime.
The Lady Owls shined on the defensive end in the third, as they limited DeKalb to just one point and took a 31-23 lead into the fourth quarter. There, they knocked down free throws and continued getting stop-after-stop to clinch the 49-38 victory over the Lady Tigers.
Haughton scored 14 points, while Chloe Collins led Smith County with 15. Addie Hawkins scored 13 points and was the only other Lady Owl to finish in double-figures. VanVranken paced DeKalb County with a game-high 19 points.
For head coach Matt Ferrell, the biggest positive that stuck out from the win was how his team played at the defensive end of the floor, especially late in the game.
“We were really good at that end of the floor tonight,” Ferrell said. “With only six or seven players, we focused a lot on the half-court…the girls really played their butts off tonight.”
Haughton and Collins played a big role at the offensive end as well when it came to finishing at the rim. Ferrell knows those two will be imperative to any success they have.
“Elle and Chloe are both really big matchup nightmares,” Ferrell said. “When somebody puts their main post on Chloe, Elle ends up with guards on her at different times…that creates good matchups for us and Elle did a really good job in the second quarter at getting to the rim and getting us the lead.”
It’s the second straight win for Smith County since their loss to Gordonsville last Friday, and Ferrell hopes it’s the start of a long streak where his team finds some much-needed consistency.
“When we finished camp, I was really pleased with where we were at,” Ferrell said. “We didn’t play great at Clay or Clarkrange to start the season, but then we had a really good stretch of play since…they’re starting to understand what I want offensively in control situations and making sure we get the matchups we want. I don’t think we’re anywhere near our ceiling right now.”
The Tigers got off to a blistering start in the boys game, and managed to hold off the Owls in fourth quarter of a 69-59 victory.
DeKalb took an early 11-point lead at 20-9 heading into the second quarter, but Smith refused to go away quietly. By the time halftime rolled around, it was just a five-point lead for the Tigers at 31-26.
The Tigers came out in the second half with a renewed energy, as they managed to build the lead back up to double-figures by the time the third quarter ended, and then they used solid defense to maintain their lead to earn the 10-point victory.
Robert Wheeler led the way with 19 points, while Conner Close was right behind him at 17. Taylor Dickerson paced Smith County with a game-high 22 points.
There was plenty for DeKalb head coach Joey Agee to like about how his team played on Tuesday night, and what stuck out the most was how efficient his team was at the offensive end of the floor.
“We scored the ball really well tonight,” Agee said. “At times, we’re really good, and we’re really bad at times…the kids are playing well and they’re trying to do everything we’re asking of them. They shared the ball really well, and I think that’s reflected on the scoreboard.”
The energy DeKalb came out with in the third proved to be a big difference in the game, and Agee attributes it to their improved focus coming out of the locker room.
“We made some minor adjustments and got more focus and effort in the third,” Agee said. “We were able to go on a little run there and push the lead, and then we held on to it in the fourth.”
District play looms on the horizon, and Agee knows his team will need to find some consistency of their own if they want to make it far into the postseason.
“It’s just them trusting each other,” Agee said. “Defensively, we’ve still got to fix some things. We’re still getting beat when I’d like for us to not to, but we’re working on it. We’ve got district play starting up soon and that’s when the road gets really difficult.”
DeKalb will be at Stone Memorial on Friday, while Smith will take on Livingston Academy on the road.