Bucs' defense leads to title defense

The Laney defense closed in on Felicity Havens (center) and the Screaming Eagles, as the Bucs rallied for another win over their archrival.

In the first half Thursday, the Laney girls basketball team couldn't make a free throw and got clobbered on the boards. But the Bucs dialed up the defense in the second half to clinch the Mideastern Conference title with a 49-43 win at Ashley.

"Down the stretch we were able to force some turnovers and take advantage," Laney coach Sherri Tynes said. "The kids just didn't give up."

Ashley's packed-in defense threw Laney's offense off in the first half and the Bucs settled for long jump shots. Laney didn't help matters by going 0-for-6 from the free throw line in the first half. The Bucs didn't hit a free throw until 1:21 remained in the fourth quarter.

Ashley prevented Laney's front line from getting easy buckets by dominating the boards. At halftime, Ashley held a seven-point lead and a 20-5 rebounding advantage.

"We played about as bad as we could possibly play in the first half," Tynes said.

But in the second half, Laney (20-1, 10-0) went back to its forte: defense. The Bucs ratcheted up the pressure and started trapping and forcing turnovers. Those turnovers created easy baskets and finally allowed Laney to find offensive flow.

"We did what we do best: defense," Laney senior Kelli Gottry said. "Our defense is what gives us the energy for our offense, and once we picked that up our offense just came to us."

Gottry and the Bucs found their shooting stroke in the second half as well. Laney shot 60 percent as a team in the second half, and Gottry scored 11 of her game-high 14 points in the second half as well, hitting two threes late in the third quarter to help pull Laney to within one point. Her final three-pointer sparked Laney's 7-0 run to take the lead for good late in the fourth quarter.

"That's what seniors are supposed to do," Tynes said. "It was one of her better games from the outside."

With the win, Laney clinched the conference title and No. 1 playoff seed outright. Felicity Havens scored 12 points for Ashley (17-5, 8-2) and broke the school's single-season scoring record in the process. She's scored 380 points this season.

Breanna Edwards added 13 points for Ashley, but the Screaming Eagles faded in the final minutes. Laney outscored Ashley 20-8 in the final six minutes.

"It's exciting for our seniors," Tynes said. "We told them that it comes around not terribly often that you can run the table in the conference and secure home-court advantage for the postseason. We're really excited about that."

Boys: Ashley 71, Laney 54

The Screaming Eagles finally broke out of their run of close losses by defeating Laney on Thursday night.

Eleven players scored for Ashley and Ridell Camidge led the way with 16 points. The Eagles bounced back after a close loss at Hoggard on Tuesday, and Ashley coach Bryn McSwain said the win was an important one heading into the postseason.

"For us it wasn't about losing the games," McSwain said. "It was about being able to extend a lead. If you look back at our games, we've had 10, 12-point leads. And if we kept doing those things we could have turned it into an 18 or 20-point lead."

With the win, Ashley moves into a tie for third place in the Mideastern Conference with Rose. Whichever team advances farthest in the conference tournament will get the No. 3 playoff seed from the Mideastern Conference.

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