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By Sara Smith
After a week away from the court due to inclement weather it was anyone’s guess what was going to happen at the annual North Shelby Tournament. The tournament had been slated to start on Monday, January 15th, but was pushed back to Wednesday, January 17th. To compress the tournament into the slot of available dates, some of the games were played at the South Shelby middle school and high school gyms.
The 8-4 Lady Rams were the #4 seed. They kicked off the tournament with a contest against the #5 seed, the 8-5 North Shelby Lady Raiders. These teams had been scheduled to play each other on January 9th, but the game was postponed until January 25th due to weather. Making this the first time these teams were on the court together this season. Both teams showed that they had a little rust they needed to knock off with a low-scoring first quarter, 7-6 in favor of the Lady Rams.
In the second quarter the Lady Rams started to hit their stride and added 15 points to their total, while the Lady Raiders only scored eight. The score at halftime was 22-14, Lady Rams. Coming out of halftime, the Lady Raiders came alive and outscored the Lady Rams 17-9. At the end of the third quarter the game was tied at 31 apiece. The fourth quarter was also fought to a draw with 14 more points for each team, the game was even at 45 points at the end of regulation.
To overtime they went. In the overtime period the Lady Raiders made a big mistake when they started to foul the Lady Rams to preserve time on the clock. The Lady Rams are good shooters, they generally make their free throws, and this game was no exception. Overall, they made 78% of their free throws. However, when the game was on the line, the Lady Rams shot 80% in both the fourth quarter and the overtime period. During this critical portion of the game Sidney Aeschliman went seven for nine, Kelsey Tallman made four out of six, and Raina Small drained all four of her free throw opportunities.
Those clutch performances were part of the equation that allowed the Lady Rams to come out on top in a 55-50 victory. Sidney Aeschliman led the team with 22 points, Raina Small scored 14, and Kelsey Tallman added 11 points to the Lady Rams tally. North Shelby made it difficult for Claudia Dixon to score in the paint, but she did come away with eight points for the Lady Rams.
After an emotional and hard-fought victory like that it can be difficult to rebound and play again. However, that is just what the Lady Rams were tasked with the very next night. On Thursday, the bracket pitted the Lady Rams against the #1 seed, the South Shelby Ladybirds at the South Shelby High School Gym. (Not exactly what you would call a neutral site.) South Shelby is a Class 3 school, so the recent matchups between these teams are typically at this tournament. Just last year, these teams also met in the second round of this tournament. During that game, the Ladybirds were able to defeat the Lady Rams 40-59.
The Ladybirds came into this contest with a record of 11 wins and three losses. They average just a little over 60 points per game. Coach Dempsay knew this game was going to be a challenge for his team. The Lady Rams were able to stay close in the first quarter, 8-12. But the Ladybirds were able to pull away in the second quarter, with a halftime score of 13-29. When play resumed in the third quarter the Ladybirds added another 11 points to their total, while the Lady Rams were limited to four points in that quarter. The score at the end of the third quarter was 17-40, advantage South Shelby.
In the fourth quarter, the Lady Rams showed their competitive nature and continued to battle, and Coach Dempsay kept coaching. The Lady Rams put up 10 points in that quarter, making the final score 27-53. While it is a loss on the record, there are positives to come from it. Playing against competition like that can only make you better, plus the substitutes got valuable playing time.
Raina Small led the offense with 10 points for the Lady Rams, she also had three rebounds, and one steal. Sidney Aeschliman had eight points on the night, plus three rebounds, three assists, one steal, and one block. Hannah Farris came in off the bench to provide three points and one rebound. Claudia Dixon, Florence Lusher, and Naomi Newland added two points apiece to the total. Dixon and Lusher came down with five rebounds each, and Newland had another two.
The loss in the second round meant that the Lady Rams would play against the #3 seed, the 12-2 La Plata Bulldogs for the 3rd place title game on Saturday, January 20th. These teams met recently, on January 2nd at Schuyler, with the Bulldog defeating the Lady Rams by nine points, 54-45. In that game, the score was tied at halftime (26- 26), but La Plata was able to pull away in the third quarter. The Lady Rams were never able to regain that ground.
However, there was reason to be optimistic since the Lady Rams had not lost two consecutive games since the first two games of the season. This time the Bulldogs pulled out to an early lead, both teams came to win with a high-scoring first quarter of 13-19. In the second quarter both teams scored 16 points, so the Bulldogs carried their six-point lead into halftime with a score of 29-35. The third quarter was more of the same, as both teams put 18 points on the board, the La Plata lead stands.
The fourth quarter the Lady Rams foul trouble caused some problems. Three of the Schuyler players had three fouls, one player had four, and one player fouled out with five fouls. These fouls limited playing time in most cases and added points to the La Plata score. During the game the Bulldogs had 21 free throw opportunities, they made 19 of them, a staggering 91% success rate. The Bulldogs were able to flip the script on the Lady Rams, and pull away with free throws at the end of the game, 59-71.
Although they fell short, they competed at every level of the game. The only glaring differences, as far as the stats go, were turnovers, La Plata only had eight while Schuyler had 14, and fouls. The Lady Rams had 19 fouls, the Bulldogs only had nine fouls during the game.
Raina Small scored a total of 23 points, 21 of which were from 3-pointers. She also had three rebounds, four assists, two deflections, and two steals. Claudia Dixon had success in the paint with 21 points, an incredible 12 rebounds, and one block. Sidney Aeschliman put up eight contested points, plus five rebounds, three assists, three deflections, and one steal. Kelsey Tallman had four points, one rebound, two assists, two deflections, and one steal. Taylor Roberts got on the board with two points, one rebound, she led the team with six assists, two deflections, and one steal. Florence Lusher came in off the bench to contribute four rebounds, three deflections, and one steal.
The Lady Rams fell to 9-6 for the season, but with plenty more basketball to be played they are still within reach of their pre-season goal of 15 wins. Coming up, the Lady Rams are scheduled to play at Scotland County on January 23rd, at North Shelby on January 25th, and at Knox County on the 26th. They will finish out the month with the La Plata Invitational, which is scheduled to run from January 29th thru February 3rd.