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THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2007
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Hazlewood's Jasmine Patton, left, leads the good times on the bench at the end of the Lady Golden Bears 60-41 win over Sulligent in the Northwest Regional semifinals at Wallace State-Hanceville on Wednesday. Hazlewood will play R.A. Hubbard in the finals Friday afternoon.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Hazlewood's Jasmine Patton, left, leads the good times on the bench at the end of the Lady Golden Bears 60-41 win over Sulligent in the Northwest Regional semifinals at Wallace State-Hanceville on Wednesday. Hazlewood will play R.A. Hubbard in the finals Friday afternoon.

Lawrence rivals meet
in regional finals

Hazlewood, R.A. Hubbard no
strangers to each other

By Brooke Milam
bmilam@decaturdaily.com 340-2460

HANCEVILLE — Seconds after his girls basketball team took a 53-46 Class 1A Northwest Regional semifinal win over Marion County on Wednesday, R.A. Hubbard coach Jack Steele had a quick answer for whether or not he preferred to play Hazlewood's girls in the finals.

"It doesn't get any better than this: Playing your biggest rival in the biggest game," Steele said of the finals pairing set for 3:40 p.m. Friday.

The three-time defending regional champion Hazlewood Lady Golden Bears advanced earlier in the day with a 60-41 win over Sulligent.

The two schools are separated by about five miles and the respect runs deep on both sides. Even so, with the stakes raised to winner-goes-to-the-state status, both teams are as hungry as ever for a victory.

"Hazlewood has got a great program, but we're hoping to upset somebody Friday," Steele said.

Hazlewood girls 60, Sulligent 41: The Hazlewood Lady Golden Bears are pretty good at chasing their opponents. Known for outrageous steal totals and pressure defense, Hazlewood is not accustomed to trailing in the second half of a Northwest Regional semifinal contest.

"First half, they frustrated us, but on our side, we kept our composure. We weren't panicked at halftime," Hazlewood coach Darin Liles said.

"We're just fortunate to be in the position we're in."

Sulligent coach Chuck Martin said his team had spent an entire season preparing for top postseason competition by scheduling several 5A and 6A schools, but nothing had prepared his team for what it saw from Hazlewood.

"They had three and four people jumping the ball. It's hard to prepare for," Martin said. "You don't see that out of many teams all year."

Sulligent led 15-8 after the first quarter and was still in control at halftime. But Hazlewood stuck around, staying just close enough to make its move in the third quarter, outscoring the Lady Blue Devils 19-8 for a 41-36 lead heading into the fourth.

"Part of the hope of pressing is that eventually it'll kick in," Liles said.

For Hazlewood, it took a little longer than usual to slow down its opponent. Being used to wearing down teams by halftime, the Lady Golden Bears trailed Sulligent 28-22 at the break.

"In the first half, our defense wasn't good at all — not like we usually play," Hazlewood's Amber Jones said. "We got normal in the second half."

Jones led all scorers with 21 points and also had a team-high seven steals.

Antionetta Howlet added 12 points and a team-best 14 rebounds.

"We had runs, and they had runs. They just had a longer run than we did," Sulligent senior Kayla Northington said.

Northington led the Lady Blue Devils with 15 points, six rebounds and two steals, while Jessica Poyner added 10 points and four rebounds.

R.A. Hubbard girls 53, Marion County 46: The lead was up for grabs until late in the contest and wasn't secure until the final seconds.

Marion County forced R.A. Hubbard to win the game at the free-throw line, where Chasity Puryear was 10-of-16 for the night.

"I made my free throws because I didn't want to get fussed at," Puryear said smiling.

Marion County was ahead 34-33 heading into the fourth quarter before the Lady Chiefs went ahead 40-34 midway through the final period and kept control.

"I want to congratulate Coach Steele and the ladies. They did a good job," Marion County coach Patrick Sutton said.

"I didn't think we got tired. I thought our conditioning was good. We just lost too many rebounds inside."

Steele also saw the contest as a rebounding battle, and his Lady Chiefs won the contest on the boards, outrebounding Marion County 46-31 in the game.

"It was a tough fought ball game," Steele said.

"They pressed us better than we thought they would. They didn't press like that in the film."

As a result, the Lady Chiefs struggled for the lead early.

Marion County was up 19-14 after the first quarter, but a 3-pointer by R.A. Hubbard's Whitney Ashford at the halftime buzzer gave the Lady Chiefs a 28-23 lead.

R.A. Hubbard outscored Marion County 14-4 in the second quarter before Marion took the lead back with a push late in the third quarter.

R.A. Hubbard bettered Marion County down the stretch, outscoring the Lady Red Raiders 20-12 in the final period.

Bernisha Harris led R.A. Hubbard with 20 points and 12 rebounds, while Puryear added 13 points, four rebounds and three steals. Dezsarae Ricks had 11 boards for the Lady Chiefs to go along with four points. Ashford had a team-leading five steals with six points and four rebounds.

For Marion County, Morgan Aston's 17 points and five assists were best followed by Hanna Baker's 14 points, nine rebounds and two steals.

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