West Side picked up its intensity in the second half and pulled away for a 61-52 victory over the Lady Thunderbirds behind the hot hand of versatile guard Alexis Barnes, who scorched the net with a game-high 30 points.
West Side Coach Adam Brothers, making his official debut with the Lady Eagles, said he talked to his team about picking up their intensity and attacking the basket in the second half after Guy-Perkins took a 32-30 lead to the locker room.
“Our hustle in the second half [was a difference]. When we decided to take it to the hole,” said Brothers. “I told my girls to take it to the hole, take it off the glass if it's there put it up and in. And if we are not in it to score we might as well pack up and go home. The girls responded and they went out there and played their hearts out.”
The Lady Thunderbirds (0-1) built a 13-8 lead in the first quarter before West Side closed the period with an 8-2 spurt ignited by point guard Abby Turney, who ripped a three-pointer from top of key.
Following a pair of free throws by Guy's Harleigh Lagasse, the Lady Eagles scored five consecutive to close out the first quarter as Barnes drilled a three-pointer from right elbow off an assist from Emily Southerland and Turney found post player Taylor Clark inside for a bucket.
West Side pushed its lead to 23-18 early in the second quarter as Barnes popped a three-pointer and Clark sank a turnaround jumper, but Guy retaliated with an 8-0 run that included four points from guard Ashley Hicks.
Down 25-23, Clark scored from left block off an assist from Barnes and Turney hit a pair of free throws that were matched moments later by Guy guard Morgan Hooten. West Side jumped back on top when Barnes nailed a trey in transition, but the Lady Thunderbirds would close the first half with a 5-0 spurt to claim a 32-30 lead at halftime.
With Guy leading 38-33 early in the third quarter, the Lady Eagles tied the game with five straight, starting when Turney dished to guard Sydnee Phillips for a layup in transition.
After Barnes scored off an assist from Clark, Guy reclaimed the lead when Hooten buried a three-pointer from right wing. Barnes initially had her shot blocked but alertly stayed with the play and finished with a layup then West Side tied the score at 42-all when Turney sank a pull up jumper in transition.
Guy jumped back on top when guard Abigail Smith knocked down two from the charity stripe, but West Side closed the third period two straight baskets as Clark hit a bank shot from left side off an assist from Southerland and Barnes canned two free throws with 2.2 seconds remaining, giving the Lady Eagles' a 46-44 lead entering the final eight minutes of play.
Page 2 of 2 - Barnes used a smooth step through move to score in transition early in the fourth quarter but Guy continued to hang around, taking a 50-49 lead on a pair of three-pointers sandwiched around a free throw by Barnes.
With under three minutes remaining, West Side reclaimed the lead for good on two free throws by Barnes, who moments later slashed into a crowded lane and finished strong. Southerland then scored four straight on a driving layup and two free throws, extending West Side's lead to 57-50 before the Lady Thunderbirds responded with an off-balance shot by point guard Nikki Brown.
The Lady Eagles slammed the door when Turney quickly answered in transition and Barnes added a pair of free throws to set the final at 61-52.
“She had an excellent game,” Brothers said of Barnes. “When she starts hitting her outside shot it opens up the drive for her. Abby played good as well. For two 11th graders, they are two outstanding kids and you can not beat the heart the give to our ball club,” stressed Brothers.
Brothers said his sophomore class, which includes Southerland, Phillips and forward Ashley Gentry, who buried a three-pointer in the opening period, came up big. “Our sophomores stepped up. We have a young group of girls that will be here next year. We don't have to dismantle them and we are going to be tough to beat.”
Following Barnes' 30 points, six rebounds and four assists, Turney had 11 points and four assists, Clark scored 10 points and pulled down five rebounds and Southerland chipped in five points for the Lady Eagles. Clark, known for her rebounding and defensive prowess, is expected to help out offensively this season.
“Me and Taylor talked about her being part of this offense the first part of the year. Instead of catching it and passing it you are going to be a scoring threat,” Brothers told Clark. “We said if you can get 10 to 15 a game you can change how this team works and she did. When she started hitting, it left our outside shots open. We have a good inside out game and that's what we are going to do the entire year.”
Smith paced Guy-Perkins with 20 points, including 14 in the first half. Brown and Hooten each added nine for the Lady Thunderbirds.