Second-seeded West Side polished off its 1A-2 South District Tournament title run with a 47-40 victory over host Concord in Saturday's championship game as center Gracie Waters loomed large in the paint, racking up a triple double with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 10 blocks.
In capturing the championship, the Junior Lady Eagles accomplished their primary goal set during a strenuous preseason. “When the season started one of our main goals was to have our last game of the year be a win,” said West Side Coach Shane Davis.
“I'm extremely proud of these girls. They really bought into giving effort and playing defense every night no matter how we were doing offensively. All of those before and after school practices really paid off,” emphasized Davis.
West Side, which finished its season with a record of 19-7, received help from rival Concord, which upset top-seeded Bradford 47-33 in the semifinals, setting up Saturday's showdown.
In the championship game, the Jr. Lady Eagles took a quick 4-0 lead as forward Bryanna Smith hit a baseline jumper off an assist from point guard Emily Southerland and center Gracie Waters recorded a putback.
Leading by two after Concord guard Mallory Benton hit a jumper in the lane, West Side closed the first period with two free throws from Waters and a buzzer-beating three-pointer from guard Trisha Carlton, who launched the shot from left wing.
Down 11-4 entering the second quarter, the Jr. Lady Pirates (15-10) closed the gap to four with a 6-0 run sparked by back-to-back steals from Benton and guard Kaleah Davis, both of which turned into layups.
Leading 16-12, West Side used a timeout to regroup and responded with two free throws by Waters, but Concord forward Emily McClure turned an offensive rebound into two free throws.
In the final minute of the first half, West Side used a 7-0 run to take command as guard Sydnee Phillips notched a rebound bucket, Waters scored from right block off an assist from Phillips and Carlton drained another buzzer-beating three-pointer, this time from right corner, giving West Side a 25-14 lead at intermission.
Concord began to chip away at its deficit in the third quarter, outscoring West Side 11-9 behind five points from Benton and four by guard Karlie Stubbs, who scored off an inbound play late in the period to slice the Jr. Lady Eagles' lead to 34-25 entering the fourth quarter.
West Side forward Ashley Gentry opened the fourth with a strong driving layup following a steal by Smith, but Concord responded with three straight, including a pull up jumper from right elbow by Davis.
Concord pulled within at the 3:13 mark when Stubbs hit a pair of free throws, but following a West Side timeout, the Jr. Lady Eagles got back on track with a free throw by Phillips.
Page 2 of 3 - Phillips missed her second free throw but it turned out for the best as Waters crashed the glass and scored, boosting West Side's lead to eight at 40-32.
Concord guard Kailey Bowman countered with a three-pointer from top of the key and the Jr. Lady Pirates pulled within four when Davis hit a midrange jumper from left wing.
But, with under a minute remaining, West Side slammed the door when Gentry drove into traffic and dished to Smith, who finished with a layup while absorbing contact.
Smith completed the three-point play for a 44-37 lead then Southerland, who finished with a team-high three assists and four steals, canned 3 of 4 free throws down the stretch to help the Jr. Lady Eagles hold on for the district championship.
Benton scored a game-high 16 points for Concord, Davis followed with eight and Stubbs added six. Following Waters' triple double, which included 14 points, Smith added 11 points, six rebounds and three steals and Gentry followed with eight points.
West Side 30, South Side 20
In the semifinal round of the 1A-2 South District Tournament, West Side survived a dismal shooting performance with suffocating defense during a 10-point victory over South Side Bee Branch.
“Our toughest game offensively all year,” said West Side Coach Shane Davis. “We went nine minutes without scoring, but the girls did a good job of not taking their struggles to the defensive end. They played with great intensity on defense all night and got the stops we needed during our drought.”
West Side finished 10 of 44 from the field, including 1 of 10 from beyond the arc. The Jr. Lady Eagles connected on 9 of 19 free throws.
Forward Ashley Gentry led West Side with 13 points and six rebounds and guard Sydnee Phillips added six points and four boards, while Bryanna Smith finished with five points and six rebounds ¬ all on the offensive end.
Also for West Side, center Gracie Waters snatched seven rebounds and four steals, while Southerland contributed three assists and four steals.
Concord 47, Bradford 33
In Concord's 14-point upset of top-seeded Bradford in the 1A-2 South District Tournament semifinals, post player Madison Robbins and guard Kaleah Davis led the Junior Lady Pirates with 14 points apiece.
Davis, only a seventh-grader, scored nine points in the fourth quarter alone to help Concord pull away from Bradford, which finished the season as the 1A-2 South Conference champions, boasting a record of 21-2.
Guard Mallory Benton added nine points for Concord.
West Side 51, Midland 23
The Junior Lady Eagles opened their run to the 1A-2 South District Tournament crown with a 28-point thumping of Midland as forward Ashley Gentry led the way with 15 points and five steals.
Forward Bryanna Smith followed Gentry with 11 points and nine rebounds for West Side, which jumped out to a 38-8 lead by halftime, and led 49-9 after three quarters of play.
Page 3 of 3 - Guard Sydnee Phillips finished with nine points, six rebounds and three assists for the Lady Jr. Lady Eagles, center Gracie Waters added seven points and two blocks, while point guard Emily Southerland had three assists and four steals.
West Side hit 17 of 19 free throws, forced 24 turnovers including 17 in the first quarter, while also dominating the glass with 19 offensive rebounds compared to five for Midland.