“I’ve researched this. As far as I know, the girls had never won a game in this tournament,” Cleburne County coach Todd Gable said following Saturday’s win over Haralson County, his team’s second tournament victory in as many days. “We’ve been going to this tournament for many, many years and hadn’t been able to get a win over there.”
Win or lose in the title game against Spring Garden, the Cleburne County girls are headed in the right direction as the second half of their season begins.
“We come back Friday with Munford and White Plains on Saturday, two big games bang-bang, especially Friday. It’s a huge area game. … To me, this is huge momentum going into that area game Friday. We were so close a couple of times last year with Munford and we just couldn’t finish the job. That’s been our main thing for them, finish the job this time,” Gable said.
Both the Munford and White Plains games are road contests. The Tigers will also play a Class 4A, Area 10 game at Anniston on January 7.
To reach the championship game with Spring Garden, the Tigers (8-4) edged host school Haralson County (Ga.) 31-25 in Saturday’s semifinal action. Haralson County had beaten Rockmart (Ga.) in its quarterfinal round game. For the second consecutive game, Cleburne County forced 20 turnovers as the Tigers’ quickness offset an opponent’s superior size.
Alisa Norton and Kiara Akles each scored eight points to lead Cleburne County past Haralson County. Akles also grabbed five rebounds and made three steals before fouling out in the third quarter. Norton’s day included two rebounds and two steals.
Toni Epps contributed five points and five rebounds. Despite early foul problems, Shawntavia Boyd had five points, three assists, two steals and two rebounds. Kaity Zeiders had five rebounds, three points and three steals. Madison Jones scored two points and pulled down three rebounds, all off the offensive glass. Lauren Brown had two assists.
Cleburne County defeated Bremen (Ga.) 44-41 Friday in the tournament’s opening round. The Tigers trailed 17-16 at halftime then held Bremen to three points in the third quarter and built a 28-20 advantage.
“We came out and played some really good defense that quarter,” Gable said.
Their seemingly comfortable eight-point cushion disappeared in the fourth quarter and Bremen led with three minutes to play. A free throw by Erykah Ware, who deflected a pass for a steal before she was fouled, made it 42-41 Tigers with 51 seconds to go. Another steal, this one by Norton, led to a layup by Boyd that set the final score.
Epps was 5-for-6 at the free throw line and Norton 2-for-2 in the fourth quarter, helping Cleburne County regain the lead. Boyd had six points in the fourth and finished with a game-best 15 points. Boyd also had five rebounds and two assists. Ware scored nine points and made three steals. Epps finished with seven points, all from the line, and four rebounds. Zeiders had seven points and two boards. Norton recorded five points, four assists and two steals. Akles nabbed three rebounds and scored one point.
“We had a time on the boards but the turnovers really made a difference,” Gable said of his players’ efforts in contending with Bremen’s two 5-foot-10 post players.