MORGANTON – There could not have been more of a contrast from the first day of the Freedom Christmas Invitational to the second for the McDowell Lady Titans.
McDowell went from trying to slow down multiple good Asheville Christian Academy ballplayers to putting total focus on one person, namely Wilkes Central freshmen center Malaya Cowles.
McDowell effectively slowed down Cowles enough to allow itself to get past the rest of the Lady Eagles 59-45 Thursday afternoon in the consolation round at Freedom High School.
The Lady Titans went on to edge Erwin Friday for fifth place.
But beforehand, McDowell had to negate the inside advantage that Cowles had.
Early on it didn’t work as the freshman scored eight of the Lady Eagles 11 points in the first quarter to give Wilkes Central an 11-5 lead. The backcourt was able to navigate through McDowell’s trapping defensive alignment and Cowles receive the ball several times early in the paint.
Cowles finished with 19 points overall but it wasn’t enough as the Lady Titans had a pair in double figures, starting with a 23-point breakout performance by junior guard Dezi Williams. Providing a balanced attack throughout the game Williams (8 rebounds, 5 steals, 3 assists), had seven very important points in the second quarter and helped quickly change the tide of the contest.
Down six, McDowell improved on its defense and prevented the ball from reaching Cowles’ hands. The end result was a 22-4 second quarter advantage that turned the momentum.
Williams drained a deep 3-pointer off a Candace Cooper assist at the 4:06 mark to give the Lady Titans their first lead of the game at 14-11.
Then later on, a 9-2 McDowell run over the last 2:06 of the half suddenly gave the Lady Titans a lot more margin to work with.
Williams sank a pair of free throws with 14 seconds left in the half giving her team a 25-15 lead. Then, on the last possession of the half, McDowell was able to force a Lady Eagles turnover and Williams scored an easy transition layup just before the horn sounded to finish off the half strong.
The final blow came just out of the break as McDowell scored the first seven points of the second half, essentially putting the game out of reach. Williams again was a catalyst, scoring five of the seven, including a 3-pointer with 4:56 left in the frame making it 34-15. The score never got much closer than a 12-14 point margin the rest of the way.
Makayla Brewer added 14 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals to join Williams in double figures for the Lady Titans.
Zoe Miller had five points, all in the first half. Cooper (2 assists, 2 rebounds) and Taylor Buchanan (4 rebounds, 2 assists) had four points each.
Hayley Creasman (4 assists,3 rebounds) had just three points after spending much of the game in foul trouble.
Lily McKinney, Katelyn Smith and Emma Banks finished with two points apiece.