Playing in the dimly-lit confines of George Kell Memorial Gymnasium at Swifton High School can offer an exasperating challenge when it comes to putting the ball in the basket.
Especially in the middle of the day when sunlight comes poking in, mixing with the overhead lights to create a less-than-ideal shooting background.
Whether it was a case of shadows playing a trick on them or they had left their shooting touch back in Brockwell, the Izard County Consolidated Lady Cougars could just not get anything to drop early in a 48-38 loss to Bay in the first round of the 21st annual Kell Classic Jan. 6.
Point-blank layups clanged off the rim, and shots that went halfway into the bucket spun harmlessly out, as ICC, the number nine seed, was struck with a big-time case of the cold-shooting blues for most its contest with the eighth-seeded Lady Yellowjackets.
However, instead of waiting around for good luck to smile upon them, the Lady Cougars took matters into their own hands and made their own breaks with a furious fourth period comeback that fell just a bit short.
ICC posted just three field goals in the first half of play and trailed 30-13 at the half.
Changing ends of the court after intermission, things loosened up a bit for the Lady Cougars in the third period.
Trace Grinnell (seven points) answered the starting bell in the third by canning the first of her two second-half 3-balls. Brittany Bailey (five points) and Keressa Campbell (four points) followed with putbacks to match ICC's total field-goal output of the first half.
The Lady Yellowjackets didn't hit their first hoop of the third until the two-minute mark, but Bay closed the third with a 6-2 to still lead comfortably, 40-22, after three.
Then the Lady Cougars got serious.
By swarming the Lady Yellowjackets with intense full-court, scrambling pressure, the Lady Cougars played themselves back into contention.
ICC held Bay to just two points for the first six minutes of the fourth, outscoring the Lady Yellowjackets 15-2 during that stretch.
Free throws by Grinnell and Bailey started the final frame for ICC, and then Grinnell launched a trey that capped a 5-0 burst for the Lady Cougars.
Natasha Coffey broke the run with a layup for Bay, but ICC simply turned up the heat.
The Lady Cougs forced Bay into three straight turnovers, and miscues in five of six possessions, as ICC continued to eat into the lead.
Melissa Martin (10 points) rang up an old-fashioned 3-point play, and Sarah Taylor (10 points) followed with a deuce that sparked a 10-zip run for ICC, pulling the Lady Cougars within five, 42-37, with 2:08 left to play. This after ICC had been in a 17-point hole at the half.
Although the Lady Yellowjackets would post just one hoop in the last eight minutes of action, Bay hit its free throws down the stretch in crunch time.
The Lady Yellowjackets went six-for-seven from the charity stripe in the last two minutes of the contest, outscoring ICC 6-1 during that period, to thwart a hard-charging comeback by the Lady Cougars.
While they struggled at getting the ball into the basket in the first half of play, the Lady Cougars also gave up way to many offensive rebounds to Bay, as the Lady Yellowjackets seemingly got at least two chances at a hoop every time down the floor.
This helped Bay jump out to a 15-8 lead after the first period of play.
Bay's lead grew to 20-8 in the second period before Campbell tossed in ICC's first hoop of the frame with 5:43 showing on the clock.
The Lady Yellowjackets closed the first half on a 6-0 run to take a 30-13 lead to halftime.
Switching ends of the court in the second half seemed to help fuel ICC's late rally, but Bay had built enough of a cushion to post a 10-point win.
Kaylee Cooper finished with two points for the Lady Cougars.