Win at Lynchburg gives North Adams share of seventh consecutive SHAC title –
By Mark Carpenter –
For those who frequent the casinos, “lucky sevens” is always a good thing. For Coach Rob Davis and his North Adams Lady Devils, last Monday night came up “lucky sevens” for them. The Lady Devils went on the road for their final regular season game, facing off with the Lynchburg-Clay Lady Mustangs in a contest that had already been rescheduled twice. The North Adams girls came in to Monday night with 14 wins in their last 15 games and with a win at Lynchburg, they would lay claim to a share of their seventh consecutive title in the Southern Hills Athletic Conference, finishing in a tie for the top spot in the big school division with Eastern brown.
The Lady Devils had dominated the small school division of the SHAC in recent years, but for the 2017-18 campaign made the move up to the big school, where they faced a much tougher road to the title, but on Monday night, the North Adams squad showed their mettle and grit, rallying back from a 10-point halftime deficit to tame the Lady Mustangs by a final score of 45-42, thereby ensuring their “lucky seven” in the SHAC.
“We knew this was going to be a battle up here,” said Coach Davis in his postgame radio chat. “Lynchburg has a nice club and the best player in the league, Scott just creates problems for everyone. We just let them get to the lane way too much in the first half, we’re a better defensive team than that. We got a little lazy sometimes and got in some foul trouble, but our bench came in and gave us some good minutes. I thought the second half we showed our real mental toughness.”
“We started the SHAC streak in the big school division, then went to the small school, and now we are back in the big school,” Davis continued. “We knew we would be in a battle all year with Eastern and Lynchburg.”
The first half of Monday night’s battle may have been one of the worst shooting performances in the history of North Adams girls basketball. In the opening two periods, the Lady Devils connected on only 7 of 41 shot attempts from the field, to steal a line from the 70’s rock band Foreigner, they were “cold as ice.”
Things began well for North Adams with two putback scores by Avery Harper as the night’s first two baskets, and a later three from Grace McDowell made it 7-2 in favor of the visitors. But the Lady Mustangs have the area’s best player in junior guard Peyton Scott and her three-point play began the Lynchburg comeback. The Lady Mustangs took their first lead with 2:28 to go in the first frame on a basket by Zoe Fittro and neither team scored after that as the period ended with the home team on top 10-9.
In the game’s second eight minute stanza, Coach Davis was playing mix and match with his lineup, as his two leading scorers, Avery Harper and Lakyn Hupp ended up sitting, saddled with two fouls each. Lynchburg began the second quarter with a 9-2 run, until a Madee Shipley trey finally got North Adams on the board and made it 19-14.
The Lady Devils could only muster a Delaney harper basket in the final two minutes of the first half as the Lady Mustangs added to their advantage and went to the halftime intermission holding a 26-16 lead.
After the break, the tempo of the game temporarily picked up with Hupp and Shipley hitting back to back threes, and after a Scott basket, a 6-0 North Adams run, all six by Avery Harper, brought the Lady Devils to within two at 30-28. After another Scott bucket, Harper nailed two free throws and the momentum had shifted quickly with the Lynchburg lead shaved to 32-20 heading into the fourth.
The first lead since the opening minutes of the game came for the Lady Devils when Avery Harper converted the old-fashioned “and one: to make it 33-32. Another score by the now unstoppable Harper gave North Adams a three-point lead, sliced to one by a pair of Fittro free throws. The two teams traded baskets for the next few offensive trips until another Harper three-point play put the visitors up 42-38 with 1:59 to play.
A pair from the strip by Scott brought the Lady Mustangs closer but McDowell matched that performance at the line with 15.9 seconds to go. Scott scored again with 7 seconds left and on the inbounds North Adams’ Taylor Hesler was fouled, and hit one of two from the line. That gave the Lady Mustangs one more chance to tie the game, but they threw the all away, and the Lady Devils hung on for the 45-42 win and their share of the conference title, finishing at 12-1 in SHAC play and 18-3 overall.
The winning Lady Devils were led by a game-high 22 points from Avery Harper, with Madee Shipley contributing 8 and Grace McDowell 7. Peyton Scott topped Lynchburg with 21, Zoe Fittro added 13.
“We knew if we could get the ball in to Avery, we could do a lot of things on offense,” said Coach Davis. Once we slowed down, we were okay on that end.”
With an 18-3 regular season in the books, the Lady Devils now look to the postseason where they will look for another Division III sectional championship on Saturday when they face the Huntington Lady Huntsmen, the same team they knocked off in last year’s sectional final. That game is set for 4:30 p.m. at Valley High School in Lucasville.
“Getting the two seed is nice in that it gives us a little rest time,” said Davis. “I’ve seen Huntington play and they’ve got two girls who can really score, so we know they will be a handful, but if we come out ready to play, we will be okay.”
9 7 14 15 –45
10 16 6 10 –42
N. Adams (45): A. Harper 22, Hupp 3, M. Shipley 8, Hesler 1, McDowell 7, D. Harper 4
Lynchburg (42): Scott 21, Fittro 13, Pinkerton 3, Smith 3, Binkley 2
N. Adams (4): McDowell 1, M. Shipley 2, Hupp 1
Lynchburg (1): Fittro 1