White Plains, the No. 5 seed in this year’s girls bracket, learned that lesson at Pete Mathews Coliseum Thursday afternoon as No. 4 Wellborn took the lead for good late in the first quarter and finished with a 66-44 victory.
The Lady Panthers are back in the semifinals of the Calhoun County basketball tournament for the second straight year and play No. 1 Anniston today at 4 p.m.
“Offensively, they can’t match up with No. 3 (Bolton) so we have to feed her low,” said Wellborn coach Brenda Vinson after the Lady Panthers(10-4) defeated area opponent White Plains (10-9) for the second time in three games.
Bolton scored 31 points, 19 of those in the first half.
White Plains coach Rachel Ford said her game plan called for offensive rebounds, a pressing defense and limiting Bolton. There were a few offensive rebounds, led by Blaire Crabtree’s four, but the plan for pressure defense went out the window when key players got into early foul trouble.
“Obviously, we did not do that,” Ford said. “We tried fronting her. We tried standing behind her. We tried pretty much everything.”
Everything included sagging into a triple team. Vinson said she challenged her players at halftime to recognize the opportunities the triple team surrounding Bolton presented them.
“There were three white jerseys on one player of ours,” she said she told them. “Look, take advantage of that. You practice just like she does.”
The Lady Panthers scored 20 points in the third quarter, making it their most productive, even though Bolton’s five points were the fewest she had in any period. Junior Natalie Johnson had two 3-point baskets and eight points in the third. Eighth-grader Dymond Myles had a trey and five points and junior Crystal Thomas scored a basket.
“I felt like everything they shot went in,” Ford said. “We’re better defenders than that.”
In the first two meetings, Wellborn let early double-digit leads slip away, losing by 12 at White Plains in mid-December and winning by one on a late free throw at Wellborn two weeks ago. From those games, Vinson said she identified Crabtree and Joy Cain as the Wildcats’ most dangerous offensive weapons. The plan was “to cover them in man down low” and zone otherwise.
The Lady Wildcats trailed only 15-12 after the first quarter as Mikayla Owen had six points, Jordan Coleman four and Crabtree two but Cain picked up two fouls in the first minute of play and headed to the bench. White Plains led 12-11 when Owen connected on a mid-range jumper off the glass 1:28 left in the first quarter. On the ensuing possession, Bolton scored from the low block, and Wellborn never trailed again.
Crabtree finished with a double-double, 10 points and 13 rebounds. Cain scored 16 points, all in the second half, and had six boards.
In addition to her 31 points, Bolton had 15 rebounds and two assists. Johnson ended with 12 points, four assists and four steals. Keshana Moore had nine points, seven assists and four steals. Crystal Thomas contributed seven points, six rebounds and five assists.
“The team that you saw tonight, that’s what we’re capable of,” Vinson said. “We need that every night.”