Lady Comets knock off county rival, top-seeded Thayer on way to finals
Talk about having the deck stacked against you.
To earn a berth in the finals of the 2004 Lady Dawg Classic at Van Buren High School, the Alton Lady Comets, playing from the number eight seed, would only have to knock off the top seed and defending tourney champ Thayer, as well as defeat the number five-seeded Neelyville squad.
Alton crossed the first two things of its to-do list, playing its way into the championship game Dec. 4, only to find the third-seeded Van Buren Lady Dawgs waiting on their home court for the Lady Comets.
Alton's run through the brackets came to an end in the finals, as the homestanding Lady Dawgs kept this year's trophy in Van Buren with a 58-28 win over the Lady Comets.
The Lady Comets (2-2) earned a spot in the finals with a 48-37 win over Neeleyville Dec. 2.
Ashley Combs tossed in a game-high 23 points to power the Lady Comets into the finals.
It took some big free throws late in the game, but the Lady Comets managed to complete a task that has eluded them the past couple of seasons; they pinned a loss on their county rivals from Thayer in opening round action.
Opening the Classic, the Lady Comets' 50-46 win over Thayer Nov. 29 deprived the top-seeded Lady Bobcats an opportunity to repeat as tourney champions, sending them to the left side of the brackets instead.
The contest very much looked like a tussle between two schools that are just starting to knock off pre-season rust, Alton playing in its second game of the year, while the Lady Cats took to the hardwood for their first time this season.
Both sides were saddled with a case of early-season jitters, or maybe a truckload of early-season jitters, as turnovers ruled most of the game. Palming the ball. Stepping on the end line. Throwing the ball into the stands. If it was an unforced turnover, it made an appearance.
In the end, the Lady Comets simply made more critical free throws than did the Lady Cats.
With the score locked at 46-all and 37 ticks remaining on the clock in the game, Alton hit four shots from the charity stripe down the stretch, while Thayer missed the front end of two one-and-one opportunities, proving the difference in the game.
Amber Treptow (10 points) went three-for-four from the stripe late, and Ashley Combs added a free throw to help Alton pull the upset. Combs led the Lady Comets with a game-high 17 points on the night.
Alton used a trio of late-period runs in the first three frames to put pressure on the Lady Bobcats.
With Thayer up 9-7 late in the first, Alton moved ahead with a 6-zip run, keyed by a couple of buckets from Sam Allred. When Shelli Ellis (10 points) sank a layup just before the buzzer, the Lady Comets led 13-9.
Alton stayed in front the duration of the second period, and went to the half on a 10-3 run. Only a 3-ball from Thayer's Tiffany Poulette (six points) kept the Lady Bobcats from being shut out the final four minutes of the first half. Alton held serve 27-18 at the break.
Regrouping at intermission, Thayer made a charge at Alton early in the third.
Tasha Wrenfrow (nine points) kicked in a pair of hoops, and Lashanda Horton (12 points) added a jumper to pull the Lady Cats within three, at 27-24.
This was as close as Thayer got in the third, as the Lady Comets held firm and extended their lead to 10, 39-29 after three, with four unanswered points to finish the period.
The Lady Bobcats made another run at Alton in the fourth, as both teams not only did battle with each other, but with the turnover bug as well.
Finishing a 7-0 run with an inside hoop by Valerie Dixon (13 points), the Lady Bobcats had once again drawn within three, 39-36, with 5:19 left in the game.
Taking advantage of some late ball-handling miscues by Alton, Thayer grabbed the lead with 45 seconds left in the game, at 46-45, thanks to six straight Lady Cat points.
This proved to be Thayer's last gasp, as Chelsey Ellis (three points) sank a free throw to tie the game at 46-all, setting the stage for big charity tosses from Treptow and Combs, leading Alton to the four-point victory.
Savanna Johnson added four points for Alton, and Mandie Rector finished with two.
Heather Coffel posted three points for the Lady Bobcats, while Brittany Allen hit for two, and Krysta Adams one for Thayer.