Bates girls top Hillcrest 36-29 to claim title

BY EDDIE LITAKER
Special to The Sumter Item
Posted 2/10/19

In sports, the power of many is almost always greater than the power of one.

That fact was illustrated on Saturday as Bates Middle School's girls basketball team defeated Hillcrest Middle School 36-29 to claim the Sumter Middle School Conference …

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Bates girls top Hillcrest 36-29 to claim title

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In sports, the power of many is almost always greater than the power of one.

That fact was illustrated on Saturday as Bates Middle School's girls basketball team defeated Hillcrest Middle School 36-29 to claim the Sumter Middle School Conference tournament championship at the Sumter High School gymnasium.

Bates had 32 of its 36 points spread out fairly equally among four players, while Hillcrest relied heavily on top player Teniya Morant. The sister of Murray State and former Crestwood High School standout Ja Morant, the Wildcats' offensive spark plug got her points, to the tune of 19 on Saturday. Unfortunately for the Hillcrest faithful in attendance, Morant's heroics were not enough to carry her team over the top.

"There's always three (defenders) on her," said Hillcrest assistant coach Joneshia Osborne of the challenge Morant faces each time she takes the floor. "Expectations are always high for her, and when the team sees her down it seems like they get down too. She's a very tough young lady. She's strong, she's following in her brother's footsteps and she's just trying to be like her brother."

Bates head coach Karen McFadden, who claimed her first SMSC coach of the year honors after the Lady Bantams claimed the regular-season title, said attempting to contain Morant presents a special defensive challenge.

"She's a great player, just a great player," said McFadden, whose team finished the season with a 19-2 record. "We're just trying to get her tired, frustrate her as much as we can, because just like any great player she's going to get her points. You've just got to limit what everyone else does and make it as hard on her to score as possible. But you can't take anything from her because she drives their team."

The Lady Bantams did a good job of limiting the contributions of others as the remaining four Lady Wildcats who scored managed just 10 points in support of Morant. Meanwhile, Bates had production up and down its lineup, led by Dalashia Brunson's nine points. Kharya Reed and Shamira Andrews added eight apiece while Keziyah Sanders chipped in seven.

"This is a group of girls that loves to be in the gym, and it's been a team effort all year," McFadden said. "Of the 12 players, we've had seven different ones lead us in scoring all year, so it's more than one person doing something. It's just a great group of girls. We finished the season 19-2, won the (Chestnut Oaks) Christmas tournament, this tournament and the regular-season championship. I knew we were going to be good, but that was even more than I expected."

Bates scored the game's first four points and led throughout. The lead peaked at eight, 29-21, at the end of three quarters before a 6-0 Hillcrest run cut the lead to two with 4:43 to go. That would be as close as the Lady Wildcats would get as the Bantams closed on a 7-2 run.

Hillcrest closed out its season with a 13-4 record.