Utilizing a tight man-to-man defense, Concord's Lady Pirates slammed Shirley 56-22 on Tuesday while county rival West Side helped out with a win over Rural Special, leaving Concord in a tie with South Side Bee Branch for first place in the 1A-2 South Conference standings.
“We've been working hard on man defense,” said Concord Coach Michael Strother. “We wanted to trap the ball screens a little more but we really didn't and played kinda soft and went underneath it. I was proud of their effort because it's new to these girls because in the past we've always played zone. We just decided to start playing some man and they are getting accustomed to it.”
Concord (10-7, 4-1) outscored the Lady Blue Devils 11-2 in the first quarter, including a 7-0 run to start the game, ignited by guard Sydney Harlan, who popped a three-pointer from left elbow off an assist from post player Kayla Richardson.
Guard Megan Talley swiped a steal and scored then forward Emanda Reeves picked another steal and finished with an open floor layup as Shirley called for timeout, already trailing 7-0 with 3:49 left in the first quarter.
Following the break in action, guard Ali Bradley got Shirley on the scoreboard with a 19-foot jumper up top but Concord closed the first period with four straight as Richardson scored off a backside lob from Harlan then Reeves found forward Mary Thompson cutting backside for a layup.
Leading by nine entering the second quarter, Talley stripped a steal and scored but Shirley guard Cassina Otto answered in transition before the Lady Pirates took complete command with a 6-0 spurt, starting when Reeves hit a jump shot.
Harlan then scored four consecutive, including a basket off an assist from Talley as Concord built a 19-4 lead before Otto scored inside off an inbound play.
Shirley sliced its deficit to 21-9 with a pair of free throws from Bradley but Richardson notched a putback and Harlan drained a three-pointer from top of the key.
After Bradley made another foul shot, Talley stole an outlet pass under the basket and scored, pushing Concord's lead to 28-10 at halftime.
The Lady Pirates opened the third quarter with a 6-0 run, sparked by Talley, who swiped a steal and finished with a breakaway layup. Reeves added a bucket from left block and Harlan tuned a steal into two more points and a 34-10 lead.
Shirley post player Meagan Delk responded with a bucket in the paint but Reeves fired back with six straight points including a midrange jumper from right baseline, two free throws following an offensive rebound and a pull up jumper from left wing.
Late in the third quarter, Reeves scored again off a strong baseline drive then Talley sank two free throws as the Lady Pirates took a 46-17 lead to the fourth quarter.
Page 2 of 2 - With 3:05 remaining, Concord placed the mercy-rule into effect when post player Madelyn Reed recorded a stick back, which followed two free throws from guard Jaycie Freeman.
Concord guard Erin Hendricks added a late free throw and Reed grabbed another offensive rebound and scored, setting the final at 56-22.
The Lady Pirates are in the thick of the conference race with their only loss coming at South Side Bee Branch, while Rural Special, Midland, Bradford and West Side are all still in contention.
“It's pretty competitive right now,” said Strother. “Anybody 1-7 in our conference can sneak up and beat anybody. I feel like Bee Branch has probably got the best tandem of guards as far as shooting and putting it on the floor. They are a very solid team but past that there are about six quality teams in the conference that can win it.”
Delk led Shirley with eight points and Bradley followed with five. The Lady Blue Devils fell to 1-4 in league play.
Harlan pumped in a game-high 17 points for Concord, Reeves added 14, Talley had 10 and Richardson finished with six.