In a battle between Cleburne County schools that help make up one of the greatest rivalries in all of Class 1A basketball, it was the Concord Lady Pirates and Pirates both picking up key conference victories on the road against the Lady Eagles and Eagles Friday night in Brady-Hipp Arena. The Jr. Eagles coasted by the Jr. Pirates in the opening game 53-27, preventing the sweep.
Concord-52 West Side-49
Playing without two-time All-State selection and senior point guard Kaleah Davis, the Lady Pirates used a 15-6 run in the third quarter and a season high 22-point performance from sophomore forward Ashlyn Deckard to overcome their halftime deficit and give themselves the momentum they needed to edge the Lady Eagles and stay unbeaten in the 2-South Conference.
Concord junior guard Carly Cooper proved to have the hot hand in the first quarter of action, draining three consecutive shots from downtown while providing nine of the Lady Pirates first 15 points, clinging to a two-point lead while all five of West Side’s starters etched their names in the scoring column. The visiting team extended their lead to five after Deckard split at the free throw line and connected on a layup off a dump pass from senior guard Macy Morgan, later scoring on a put back before the Lady Eagles ended the half on a 8-0 run that included sophomore forward Alex Southerland cashing in on a put back shot of her own while swishing two free throws, leading to junior forward Faith Birmingham getting a lay-up to fall after cutting through two defenders and junior guard Kaitlin Towell swiping a steal and turning it into a lay-in.
Morgan, Deckard, and sophomore guard Annalise Cornett all combined to go seven of eight from the charity stripe to start the second half, cutting the lead down to two at 28-26 before sophomore forward Avery Southerland put Concord back on top after drilling two free throws with three minutes left in the quarter at 31-30. Classmates Deckard and Cornett added finishes at the rim to extend the lead to five before Alex Southerland made two free throws of her own, as the Lady Pirates went nine for ten from the line.
Senior guard Ciara Roberson, Birmingham, and Alex Southerland all scored within the first minute and a half of the final session, going up three before the lead exchanged three times, as Deckard stole the ball that set up a drive and finger roll finish for Morgan, while Deckard herself made two of four free throws for a 45-42 advantage. West Side would hang tough, however, as Roberson lined up and splashed home a triple with 1:37 remaining to tie the game, but Avery Southerland made a fifteen-footer just 18 seconds later and Cornett and Alex Southerland split on two free throws apiece, before Cornett would go on to make four straight to put the game out of reach, despite Roberson’s last-second three-point attempt falling through the net to set the final at 52-49.
Deckard led all scorers with a season-high of 22 points, while Avery Southerland and Cooper each added nine apiece for 18-5 Concord, who won their ninth straight conference game of the season and third consecutive game over the Lady Eagles. West Side was led by Alex Southerland’s 16 points, while Roberson added 12 and Birmingham totaled 10.
Concord-52 West Side-44
The Pirates faced a deficit of their own at intermission, trailing West Side 28-21 before pulling within one point at the end of the third quarter and outscoring the Eagles 19-8 in the final eight minutes to move to 20-3 overall and 8-0 in conference, the eighth time the program has won at least twenty games in nine seasons.
Getting out to a 12-8 first quarter advantage, the Eagles saw their lead grow to 11 at 28-17 as senior forward Joe Paul Freeland drained four straight free throws, senior Brice McClendon got two threes to go, and senior Trent Bentley added a lay-in to compliment Freeland’s old fashioned three-point play. Concord’s senior trio of Ryan Brock, Riley Cornett and Brooks Benton combined to score all but four of the Pirates 21 first half points, as Brock and Cornett took care of business around the basket and Benton fired in shots from inside and beyond the arc, with the team facing a 28-21 deficit.
Cornett stole a pass and saved the ball from going out of bounds by shoveling a pass to Brock for a breakaway layup to cut the lead to five, but Bentley buried a shot from downtown while classmate Dawson Gardner finished on a layup to get West Side back out to a double-digit lead, only for the Pirates to reel off a 10-0 run that included Cornett scoring on an inbounds play as well as a pullup jumper, Benton making a shot in the lane, sophomore guard Rodney Brock getting two free throws to fall, and Cornett picking a steal and sophomore forward Hunter Spinks scoring on a put back right before the horn, bringing Concord within one at 34-33.
Benton added another three pointer from the right corner with 6:10 left in the game to put the Pirates out in front for the very first time before Brock scored on three straight possessions after having to sit out half of the third quarter and some of the fourth due to foul trouble, extending the visiting team’s lead to 44-38. West Side would strike back with a 6-0 run, as Freeland would make a free throw as well as a turnaround jumper, all before McClendon knotted the game at 44-44 thanks to a three-pointer that was made possible after Robbie Schmidt pulled in a clutch offensive rebound with 1:50 to go.
Concord would go on to score the final eight points of the contest, however, after Benton and Cornett saw all six of their combined free throw attempts go through the nylon, with the icing on the cake coming at the hands of Brock, who would steal a pass and go coast to coast for the finger roll finish to set the final score at 52-44.
The Pirates were led by Benton and Brock, who each scored 16 apiece. Cornett followed with 12. Freeland led the way for West Side with 16, as Bentley added 13.
West Side-53 Concord-27
The Jr. Eagles never looked back in this one after getting out to a 27-3 lead after six minutes, picking up their twentieth win of the season while making quick work of the Jr. Pirates. Travis Gentry scored all of his game-high 17 points in the first quarter to lead 20-1 West Side. Gage Morgan was the leading scorer for Concord, finishing with 8.