Whether or not the South Meck Sabres are the best team the McDowell Lady Titans have played this year is debatable. Whether their full-court press is the best McDowell has seen is not open to dispute.
South Meck’s press goaded the Lady Titans into 30 turnovers and sparked a 16-2 second quarter that turned a close game into a 57-38 rout in the second round of the State 4A Playoffs Thursday at Titan Gym.
The Sabres’ (25-4) length and athleticism was just too much for the Lady Titans (16-11), who still managed to play South Meck more or less to a standstill in the other three periods.
The 10th-seeded visitors got 20 points and 10 rebounds from forward Shariah Gaddy. Post A’Lea Gilbert added 13 points and pulled nine boards, and guard Jadin Gladden had 12 points and eight rebounds.
Eight of Gaddy’s boards came on the offensive end, where South Meck held a whopping 20-6 advantage over the much-smaller Lady Titans.
Dezi Williams fought off foul trouble to finish with 12 points, five rebounds and four steals for the seventh-seeded Lady Titans. Hayley Creasman added nine points, but no one else scored more than four.
Despite the loss, Lady Titans head coach Jennifer Kinninger said her team had no reason to hang its head.
“They gave it everything they had tonight,” said Kinninger. “If it hadn’t been for the second quarter, we were neck-and-neck with them. They outscored us by two points in the second half. We played with a lot of heart against a very good South Meck team that has a lot of talent.”
Early on, McDowell’s talent seemed a match for that of the Sabres.
The game was tied 12-12 after Creasman made a 3-pointer off a Zoe Miller assist with 22 seconds left in the opening period.
But South Meck scored the game’s next 11 points with a rally touched off by Serina McDuffie’s trey with three seconds left in the first period.
McDowell ran into turnover trouble as the second quarter began, and South Meck made the Lady Titans pay. By the time Gilbert scored in the paint with 3:35 left in the half, the Sabres led 23-12.
McDowell briefly got back within double figures on Makayla Brewer’s jumper with 2:50 remaining, but South Meck ripped off eight more points in a row to take a 31-14 lead at halftime.
The Sabres extended the lead to 41-21 after three as Gaddy scored 16 of her 20 in the second half.
McDowell outscored South Meck 17-16 in the fourth quarter as Williams, who picked up her fourth foul with 3:46 left in the third and spent the remainder of that quarter on the bench, tossed in seven of her points in the final stanza.
The Lady Titans shot the ball better than South Meck – 42 percent to 34 percent – but the Sabres were so good on the offensive glass, it didn’t matter. On several occasions in the second half, McDowell players had South Meck boxed out, only to see the Sabres leap straight up and snatch the ball away without fouling.
South Meck advances to the third round against No. 2 seed Mallard Creek (26-2) Saturday in Charlotte.
South Meck (57) Jadin Gladden 5-14 2-6 12, Naomi Gilbert 1-10 2-4 5, Shakyra Harley 0-4 4-6 4, Shariah Gaddy 7-14 6-7 20, A’Lea Gilbert 6-10 1-1 13, Serina McDuffie 1-3 0-0 3, Ty’Teria Sharper 0-1 0-0 0, Mya Olmeda 0-2 0-0 0, Aniyah Blair-Young 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 20-58 15-24 57.
McDowell (38) Hayley Creasman 3-9 2-2 9, Lily McKinney 1-1 0-0 2, Makayla Brewer 2-3 0-0 4, Dezi Williams 4-10 3-6 12, Candace Cooper 1-3 0-0 2, Zoe Miller 1-2 0-0 3, Taylor Buchanan 1-2 0-0 2, Ariel Lineberger 0-0 0-0 0, Emma Banks 0-1 0-0 0, Silese Carson 1-2 0-0 3, Megan Zullo 0-0 0-0 0, Kendell Brooks 0-0 1-2 1. Totals: 14-33 6-11 38.
South Meck 15 16 10 16 – 57
McDowell 12 02 07 17 – 38
Rebounds: SM (33) McDowell (22) Rebound leaders: SM (Gaddy 10) McDowell (Williams, Brewer, McKinney 5) 3-point goals: SM (2-12) McDowell (4-12) SM (N. Gilbert 1-4, Harley 0-3, A. Gilbert, Sharper 0-1, McDuffie 1-3) McDowell (Williams 1-3, Cooper 0-2, Creasman 1-4, Miller 1-1, Carson 1-2) McDowell assist leaders: (Cooper 3) McDowell steals leaders; (Williams 4) McDowell blocked shot leaders: (Williams 1) Turnovers: SM (14) McDowell (30)
McDowell Lady Titans head coach Jennifer Kinninger on the Lady Titans’ season:
“One thing that has been really special about this team is that they have been a family all year. It’s something unique. They always have each others’ backs. I have loved coming to practice every day with these girls and to see their growth. They ask questions and they want to know more about the game and how they care about each other. I’m especially going to miss our four seniors (Hayley Creasman, Lily McKinney, Taylor Buchanan, Ariel Lineberger) and how they have given so much to our program and have represented what a Lady Titan is for four years. To see their growth from when they came in as ninth-graders until now is just something as a coach you’re so thankful you get the opportunity and are blessed enough to get to coach them. For the girls coming back next year, I’m excited about what they have the opportunity to do, and what they can accomplish if we put in the work and get ready for next year. But we’re really going to miss those seniors. I’m really proud of how we finished out this year and hung in there and were successful. We came in third in a tough league and were able to surprise some people, I think. I’m really proud of how they grew. Even more than basketball, they’re a great group of young ladies and it’s been a blessing to get to coach them and be around them. They’ve made me a better person.”