SPEEDWAY -- When it all came down to it, the West Central Conference girls' basketball championship picture was simple this year. Cloverdale and Speedway each had 4-1 WCC records entering Friday, and they were playing each other in the conference finale.
The winner would take all.
Unfortunately for the Clovers, they came out on the short end of that all-important game, falling to the Sparkplugs 69-61.
Cloverdale committed seven turnovers in the opening frame and got behind by as many as 10 in the first. They still trailed 18-9 at quarter's end.
Although Coach Bruce Cook thought his team battled out of that initial hole in the second period, he certainly knew the turnovers were costly.
"We got it to 25-25 and I felt like we were right back in it, but turnovers in the first quarter plagued us, and a lot of them were unforced turnovers. We discussed that a little bit at halftime," Cook said.
The key to the second quarter comeback was center Elizabeth Cheatham. Although the team had been looking to Cheatham the entire game, she was able to get things going in the second, scoring 16 points in the period.
"We looked inside to Elizabeth, and she struggled a little bit in that first quarter, but then I think she turned things on a little bit in the second quarter and really got us back in the game," Cook said.
Cheatham finished with 26 points to lead all scorers.
"I think Elizabeth does a nice job. She's really improved these last two games, giving us 28 and 26. Before that, I think she had two games with four points apiece. In order for us to be successful, she's going to have to be the one who steps up."
Speedway (14-5, 5-1 WCC), however, had some fight left in them and closed the half with a 33-29 lead.
The first half was extremely physical and closely called, with a total of 20 fouls whistled. After the break, Cloverdale kept getting whistled, but Speedway did not. While Cook did not blame the officiating, he did say his squad struggled with the change in how the game was being called.
"I thought we had a really tough time adjusting to the inconsistency of the calls. (There were) 20 fouls in the first half and in the second, Speedway had four with two minutes to go. It was tough for us to adjust to that," Cook said. "We got frustrated at that and I think that bothered us a little bit."
In spite of this, Cloverdale was able to make a 7-0 run early in the third to take a 36-35 lead early in the third. The Plugs came right back, though, and reclaimed the lead.
Speedway was able to stretch the lead to as much as 12 with an 11-0 run in the fourth quarter. With some fouling and late three-pointers, though, Cloverdale got the game back to its final eight-point margin.
"The Sparkplugs are deserving of the win. They are a good conference champions. They represent us well," Cook said.
The Sparkplugs were also able to take full advantage of the fouls called on Cloverdale, going 23-of-33 from the free-throw line. By comparison, Cloverdale was 8-for-18.
Shaley Anglea led the Sparkplugs with 23 points.
Their regular season now over, the Clovers move on to the first round of the Cascade Sectional. They will face Putnam County rival South Putnam at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Cascade.
|Cloverdale||9 20 12 20 -- 61|
|Speedway||18 15 11 25 -- 69|
Cloverdale (15-5, 4-2 WCC) -- Cheatham 12-18 2-7 26, Koosman 3-13 4-7 11, McCammon 3-12 1-2 10, Haltom 2-9 0-0 6, Franklin 2-4 0-0 5, Shepherd 1-5 1-2 3. Totals: 23-61 FG, 8-18 FT, 61 points.
Speedway (14-5, 5-1 WCC) -- Anglea 6-11 11-13 23, Tierney 4-15 9-10 19, Emerson 4-10 2-5 10, Miller 3-5 1-2 8, Walton 3-12 0-2 8, Jones 0-2 0-1 0. Totals: 20-55 FG, 23-33 FT, 69 points.
Next game -- Cloverdale faces South Putnam in game three of the Cascade Sectional at 6 p.m. Wednesday.