Sophomore Tiffany Vincent scored 21 point in the win. (Daily Home)
ALPINE — The Winterboro Lady Bulldogs earned a spot in the Class 1A Area 7 championship game against TC Central by eliminating Wadley 56-44 Thursday night.
Tiffany Vincent made nine of her final 10 free throw attempts and scored 21 points to lead Winterboro in the win. Tenesha Merritt added 11 points and Jasmine Richardson chipped in with nine.
“It’s a great opportunity to go to the playoffs two years in a row, which is something the school hasn’t done,” said Winerboro head coach Sheroderick Smith. “It’s a blessing. Wadley’s a very physical team, but we played not to lose tonight. I really think our girls were trying to look ahead. Wadley always plays us tough.”
Olivia O’Neal had 12 points to lead Wadley. Loren Padgett scored 11.
Wadley head coach Donald Jones praised the play of his three seniors throughout a rough six-win season.
“We have a long way to go, but we were led by Padgett, (Candace) Jones and (Allison) Moncus — what a great group of girls,” he said. “My hat’s off to Winterboro. They’re everything they’re cracked up to be. They’re a good basketball team and we’re going to support our area. Hopefully they go deep in the playoffs. We want to see them bring that championship back to our region.”
Richardson got Winterboro on the board and Vincent scored five points in the opening quarter to give the tournament host a 9-5 lead.
Winterboro led 11-7 at the end of the slow first quarter.
The pace picked up in the second, as Merritt led Winterboro to an 18-11 lead. Richardson’s free throw gave Winterboro a 10-point edge with 2:45 remaining before the break, but Padgett responded with a 3-pointer for Wadley.
Winterboro ended the half with a 6-1 run and built its lead back up to 10 points at 29-19.
The teams traded blows throughout the second half. Each time Wadley cut the lead to within 10 points, Winterboro would respond and build it back up.
Vincent scored five more points in the opening stages of the third quarter. Wadley saw some good minutes from O’Neal, who scored seven points in the period.
Her free throws with 34 seconds remaining cut the lead to 39-33, but Winterboro closed the quarter with four points and went to the fourth with another 10-point lead.
Five consecutive free throws from Vincent in the fourth quarter gave Winterboro a 49-37 edge with 5:30 remaining.
“She’s probably our best free throw shooter, that’s why she’s in the game in crunch time,” Smith said. “She really got our team out of a free throw shooting slump.”
Just like the third quarter, Wadley could not come within 10 points for long.
Winterboro defeated TC Central in both regular season games this year. Smith said he expects a sold-out crowd Saturday.
“Coach Duncan gets a lot out of those girls,” he said. “We have great respect for one another and he’s one of the only coaches that supported me since my very first day here at Winterboro. My girls should be up for the challenge. Our games in the last three years have been some great ones.”
Read more:The Daily Home - Vincent leads Winterboro to area final