The Wilson Hall varsity girls basketball team faced an uphill climb going into its SCISA 3A state tournament quarterfinal game against Cardinal Newman on Tuesday, having lost to the Lady Cardinals 63-23 in a regular-season meeting.
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The Lady Barons were holding their own against CN’s 1-3-1 three-quarters-court press late in the first quarter when an eerily ironic event took place.
Point guard Madison Elmore went down with a knee injury.
Elmore, the senior point guard who suffered a severe injury to her right knee in the quarterfinals of the 2019 state tournament, injured her left knee on Tuesday. She was lost for the game and just over a minute later Dubose Alderman, another one of Wilson Hall’s ball handlers, was lost for the rest of the half after suffering an injury.
Things began to get away completely from the Lady Barons at that point, as they went on to suffer a 71-26 loss at Sumter County Civic Center.
“The early part of the game we felt like we were in pretty good shape,” said WH head coach Glen Rector, whose team finished the season with a 16-7 record. “We were handling the press OK, had a couple of turnovers, learned from those turnovers. We made adjustments defensively, going to the zone, working on the block out.
“Obviously when Maddie went down and Dubose went down that was a big punch in the stomach to our basketball team. We had girls put in that position against Cardinal Newman to handle that pressure (who weren’t used to it), and they struggled a little bit.”
Wilson Hall, the upper bracket No. 4 seed, was hanging with No. 1 seed Cardinal Newman through the early part of the first quarter, trailing just 11-6 with 3:36 remaining. Elmore suffered the injury while trying to defend the Lady Cardinals’ Tanaya Kennedy, who ended up hitting a layup and converting a 3-point play to make it 14-6 with 3:20 left.
Alderman went down with an injury not soon after and didn’t play the remainder of the first half. The Lady Barons trailed 17-8 after the first quarter.
They turned the ball over 10 times in the second quarter while managing to get off only six shots. CN, which improved to 22-1, extended the lead to 39-18 at halftime.
Rector felt his team was much more ready for Cardinal Newman’s pressure this time around. He just wishes he could have had all of his ball handlers for the entire game.
“Anybody who knows anything about basketball knows how important guards are to handling pressure,” he said. “Maddie Elmore and Haley Roone McCaffrey, who have been on the varsity for four years, and Dubose Alderman, who has been on varsity for three years, there’s not too many different types of pressure they haven’t seen before.
“I felt like we were much better prepared this time. Last time we were shocked. We didn’t always handle it great today, but I thought we were ready for it.”
Wilson Hall managed to score just eight points in the second half. The Lady Barons trailed 64-22 after three quarters and the final 6-plus minutes of the game was played with a running clock.
McCaffrey led WH with nine points. Andi Grae Wingate had five and Vivian Bryant four.
Ashlyn Watkins, Cardinal Newman’s 6-0 center, was the game’s high scorer with 21 points. Audrey Meyers and Kennedy both finished with 17.
Rector said he was proud of his team, considering some of the obstacles it had to overcome this season.
“We as coaches usually use clichés when talking about the end of the season,” Rector said. “But realistically speaking, to have seven girls graduate from last year and losing the majority of our scoring, and to have five seniors, three who didn’t have a ton of playing time, I think this group of girls as the season went did such a great job.”
Cardinal Newman will face First Baptist in a semifinal game on Friday. The other semifinal will have Florence Christian School, a 53-52 winner over Hammond on Tuesday, taking on Northwood.
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