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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Sparkplugs outpace Eagles at sectional

Thursday, February 10, 2011

South Putnam senior Kelsey Searles puts up a shot over Speedway's Kati Gregory during Wednesday's sectional game. Searles led the Eagles with 12 points in her final game in uniform. [Order this photo]
CLAYTON -- In what would be their final game of the season, South Putnam came into Wednesday's sectional contest against Speedway a clearly improved team. An unfortunate call late in the game seemed to stall a charging Eagles team and allowed Speedway to waltz away with a 54-39 victory.

The moment in question came at the end of the third quarter. The Eagles had cut the Sparkplugs' lead back down to eight points at 38-30 when point guard Jenna Jones hit a three-pointer as time expired to pull them team even closer. However, the referees met at halfcourt and after a brief discussion the basket was called off, bringing the ire of the South Putnam crowd and their head coach Debbie Steffy.

So instead of going into the final quarter down just five, the Eagles found themselves down eight and soon fell behind by 13 and were never able to recover.

"Our kids, I've said this all year long and I know everybody thinks 'Oh, here she goes again', but these kids don't give up," Steffy said. "They work hard, they come out and believe in themselves and they just get after it. They do what they have to.

"We get unforced turnovers, we come back on the other end and get a stop. You can't ask for anything more for kids that work hard like that," she added.

In the first half, South Putnam was able to counter everything the Sparkplugs threw at them. They struggled with their shots, but senior Kelsey Searles was able to snatch multiple rebounds and score some key points on put-backs.

The Eagles pulled even with Speedway with 10 seconds remaining in the first quarter when Alex McHugh calmly knocked down two free throws. But as she had already done twice in the contest, Speedway's JoJo Daghe connected on a three-pointer at the buzzer to give Speedway a 14-11 advantage.

South Putnam's shooting woes continued in the second quarter and Speedway was able to extend its lead to 25-19 at the break. Dahne scored nine of her 14 first half points in the quarter and Steffy believed that was a deciding factor.

"I think the difference in the game was we let the Daghe girl get open a few times and hit some threes. She ended up with 24 on the night on us... I felt good about our defense going into this part of the season. We've done really well with our 3-2 zone," Steffy said.

The Sparkplugs were able to build a lead as big as 12 points in the third quarter, but South Putnam began to find its way and was clearly with the momentum when the Jones' shot, which looked to be good, was called off. The lack of a buzzer didn't help matters much.

Searles led the Eagles with a team-high 12 points. She was followed by Leanna Masters with eight and Ericka Minor with six. The Eagles have been able to continue to improve as the season has progressed and Steffy thinks that's an important factor leading into next season.

"It's really important," she said. "We talked about in there we had 11 girls dressed tonight and two of them won't be returning next year -- Kelsey Searles and Robbie Urton, both seniors, and we're just going to build on where we were this year. We played a lot of young kids -- Speedway had a lot of young kids out there too, but we had a lot of young kids that played hard.

"I'm really proud of the girls and I'm glad I was able to coach this group of girls," she conluded.

The Eagles end the season with a mark of 2-17.

At Cascade

Class 2A Basketball Sectional

Speedway 14 11 13 16 -- 54

South Putnam 11 8 11 9 -- 39

Individual Stats

Speedway -- Daghe 24, Gregory 12, A. Smith 5, Nash 5, Tavis 4, B. Smith 2, R. Smith 2. Totals: 22-63 FG, 5-12 FT, 54 TP.

South Putnam -- Searles 12, Masters 8, Whitaker 7, Minor 6, Jones 4, McHugh 2. Totals: 15-54 FG, 9-14 FT, 39 TP.