• 79°

Gutsy performance for Lady Warriors

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

The LaGrange Academy Lady Warriors were short-handed and exhausted, but they found a way.

Trailing by four points with less than two minutes to play, LaGrange Academy staged a furious late-game rally to edge rival Oak Mountain Academy 47-46 on Tuesday night.

There were only five players available for LaGrange Academy, meaning everyone had to play all 32 minutes.

Despite that, the Lady Warriors (2-3) powered through and evened their Region 1-AA record at 1-1.

“I think we showed we can push through adversity,” said

Kayla McBride, who scored 11 points. “When we have challenges, we just face them head on, and we didn’t give up.”

The Lady Warriors were facing a 46-42 deficit in the closing moments, but they closed the game on a 5-0 run.

After Ivey Portis made a free throw, Kelsey Cotton came through with a steal and a layup to cut Oak Mountain’s lead to 46-45 with about 90 seconds to play.

With time winding down, McBride stole the ball, and she passed it to Cotton, who was fouled.

Cotton knocked down both free-throw attempts, and LaGrange Academy had a one-point lead with seven seconds remaining.

“With seven seconds to go and down by one, to make both free throws, that is clutch,” said LaGrange Academy head coach Ken Klinger.

Oak Mountain got a shot away at the buzzer that missed, and LaGrange Academy walked away with the home win.

Cotton, whose free throws provided the winning margin, led LaGrange Academy with 17 points, and Portis scored 16 points and did an outstanding job from the point-guard position.

McBride added 11 points, freshman Anna Beth Kinnersley had 10 rebounds, and freshman Ellie Grace provided a key contribution on defense, and she helped hold Oak Mountain’s leading scorer scoreless in the second half.

“I’m very proud of them,” Klinger said. “They’ve got a great attitude and are willing to work, and they get after it.”

The Lady Warriors faced plenty of disadvantages in the game.

Not only were there no players on the bench, but they hadn’t been able to practice for a while because of quarantine procedures.

“It’s not just playing with five people, but we haven’t practice for a week because we’ve all been in quarantine,” Klinger said. “Kelsey, our leading scorer, she’s been out since early December. She was quarantined. She hasn’t practiced since early December, and for her to battle and score 17 points was really huge for us.”

Klinger floated the possibility of postponing the game, but the players were having none of that.

“I asked a couple of them if they really wanted to play or should we re-schedule it, and they said no, let’s play,” Klinger said.

The game was close the whole way.

The Lady Warriors led 11-9 after the first quarter, and it was tied 22-22 at the half.

LaGrange Academy outscored Oak Mountain 15-14 in the third quarter to take a one-point lead, setting the stage for the dramatic final quarter.

LaGrange Academy will look to make it two wins in a row on Friday against Windsor Academy on homecoming night.

The girls’ game tips off at 6 p.m., and the boys’ team will return from an extended break to play at 7:30 p.m.