Lady Eagles win first Brantley title

Published 2:42 pm Tuesday, November 22, 2011

AHOSKIE – The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Bethel eight that night.

The Lady Eagles trailed Ridgecroft School by 15 with just over a quarter to play. The same Rams they hadn’t beaten in four years and they were in the championship game of the Lt. Nick Brantley Scholarship Tournament – an event where they had never reached the finals.

Bethel Head Coach Ashley Byrum said his thoughts were practical at that time.

“My thought was we have to change our defense,” he said. “We were running a 2-1-2 and that wasn’t working. The 1-3-1 has been our signature defense and we needed to go back to that. When we did, we created some turnovers and got back in the game.”

The Lady Eagles rallied from that 15-point deficit to defeat Ridgecroft 40-33 and become the fourth different school to win the tournament in its six years.

“I was proud of the girls,” Byrum said. “I knew they had it in them, but I didn’t know how they would respond. They responded like they needed to if we are going to be a championship team this year and that’s what we intend to be.”

Ridgecroft got a three-pointer from Larabee and a free throw by Mary-joe Harrell to take a 29-14 lead with 2:29 to play in the third quarter.

From that point, Ridgecroft didn’t score again until the 3:27 mark of the fourth quarter. Part of that drought came with Hennie Larabee – one of the Rams leading scorers – on the bench with four fouls.

Bethel, meanwhile, was starting to heat up on the offensive end. Elizabeth Farmer hit a free throw that sparked a 17-0 run. Kelsie Conner added two baskets and Farmer another in the third quarter as the Eagles got within 29-21 as the final quarter began.

Conner hit the first two hoops of the fourth quarter before Jessica  Howerton scored for Bethel. Conner then had a basket to tie the game and another to give the Eagles a 31-29 lead with 4:17 to play.

Bryant, however, answered with a three-pointer that stopped the Bethel run and put the Lady Rams back in front (32-31).

Howerton then scored on the other end and Farmer pushed the lead to three (35-32) with a bucket coming with just 2:27 to play.

Larabee’s free throw stopped the Bethel run, but Howerton and Kristen Adams each scored in the closing minutes of the game to seal the Bethel victory.

Conner and Howerton shared scoring honors for Bethel with 14 each while Farmer checked in with eight and Adams added the other four.

Bryant’s 16 paced Ridgecroft with Larabee adding 11, Harrell checking in with five and Lauren Colson scoring one point.

Bethel improved to 3-0 for the young season while Ridgecroft dropped to 2-1.

The early part of the game saw Ridgecroft get started with Bryant draining a three-pointer. Bethel answered with a pair of Howerton hoops to take a 4-3 lead.

Ridgecroft came back with a free throw from Larabee, but another Howerton basket helped the Eagles lead 8-4 after one quarter.

Larabee started the second period with a three-pointer, but Bethel responded with back-to-back hoops from Farmer and Adams to surge ahead 12-7. The baskets were the last two of the first half for the Eagles.

A three-pointer off the hands of Larabee sparked a nine-point run for Ridgecroft to close out the second quarter. Bryant added a three-point play and Harrell scored a field goal. Colson closed the half with a free throw that gave Ridgecroft a 16-12 lead heading into intermission.

Bryant controlled the opening of the third quarter when she hit back-to-back triples and a free throw before a Harrell bucket helped push the Ridgecroft lead to 25-12.

Howerton stopped the run with her hoop, but Larabee’s three-pointer and Harrell’s free throw set up the 15-point edge for the Rams.

Following the tournament, Conner was named Most Valuable Player. She was joined on the All-Tournament team by teammates Farmer and Howerton. Ridgecroft placed Bryant and Larabee on the All-Tournament Team. Also selected was Ashton Liverman of Northeast Academy.

The Lt. Nick Brantley Scholarship Tournament is sponsored jointly by United Country Joe Murray Realty and the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald.