AUGUSTA – Lightning didn’t strike twice and history didn’t repeat for the Red Eddies.
A year ago, the KVAC championship game featured an Edward Little girls’ basketball team that had lost twice to top-ranked Morse in the regular season. With the conference crown on the line, the Red Eddies pulled the surprise and stunned the favored Shipbuilders for the KVAC title.
Coming into Monday’s game with Cony, the Red Eddies faced a similar scenario but EL couldn’t duplicate the feat of last year.
After rallying with a strong finish in the second quarter, EL watched Cony break the game open in the third and hold on for a 58-49 win.
“They’re so athletic,” said EL coach Craig Jipson, whose team has now lost to Cony three times this season. “They made a run in the third quarter that we couldn’t match.”
Cony used a 19-6 third quarter to open a commanding lead. EL tried to rally in the fourth quarter, but could only get as close as seven. It was the fourth straight KVAC championship game for EL and second loss during that span.
“We kind of got down,” Jipson said. “We’ve talked about that all year. I yelled it out a couple of times ‘Don’t hang your head and pout. Just get back on defense.’ When you’re a talented team and used to scoring, and you struggle to score, you start to get down. Other teams I’ve had, we couldn’t score. So we didn’t pout when we missed, and we hustled back defensively.”
The Rams picked up the pace in the third and started hitting some shots. When EL couldn’t match it, the Rams took advantage of the Red Eddies inability to keep pace in the faster game. Cony moved the ball effectively to either catch EL slow getting back on defense or out of position in the halfcourt.
“They play a matchup zone, which is something we only see against them,” Cony senior Amelia Diplock said. “So slowing it down offensively is our type of play. So we wanted to get more points in transition and move more on offense.”
Diplock led the Rams with 24 points, including 13 in the second half. Josie Lee added 12 while Emily Sanford added 10.
Kory Norcross had a fine effort for EL with 18 points. Ashlee Arnold added 15 for the Red Eddies, which will play Hampden in the Eastern A quarterfinals Friday at the Augusta Civic Center.
Trailing 21-13 in the second quarter, EL made a strong push to finish the half. The Red Eddies started the quarter shooting 1-for-10 and finished 3-for-13. EL still scored seven straight as part of a 12-3 run that put them up 25-24 at the half.
After a Tianna Harriman free throw, Brooke Reynolds scored on a rebound. Then Norcross added two free throws. A Diplock 3-pointer made it 24-18 with 2:27 left, but EL got two fouls shots and a jumper from Norcross. After an Arnold free throw, she set up Reynolds for a basket and the lead with 15 seconds left.
“Kory played great in the first half,” said Jipson. “She really kept us in it.”
Norcross hit a 3-pointer to start the third quarter, putting EL up 28-25. It would be the last field goal for the Red Eddies in the quarter. Cony answered with 13 straight points to take the lead for good.
“We missed two or three layups on that one trip to start the third quarter,” Jipson said. “Then we got outscored in the third 19-6. Every other quarter, we were right there.”
The shots that weren’t falling started to drop for the Rams, while Cony also picked up the intensity.
“It was nice to have that break and make some adjustments that I had a harder time making during the game,” said Cony coach Karen Magnusson, nursing a strained voice. “So it was good for us to get back together, get on the same page on what we needed to do.”
After missing its first four shots of the quarter, Cony finished hitting 7 of 13. The Rams got 3-pointers from Emily Quirion and Bethany Elwell, but also got some points inside from Diplock, Lee and Melanie Guzman. The Rams also scored a handful of baskets off steals and transition.
“We wanted to box out a little more and try to push the ball up the floor,” Diplock said. “We hadn’t really gotten any points in transition. So we were trying to focus on that.”
After 13 straight points made it 38-28, EL finally scored when Norcross sank two free throws with 2:17 left. EL had another foul shot by Norcross, while Cony finished the quarter with a Diplock basket in the paint and a 3-pointer by Quirion.
Cony increased the lead to 51-34 with 3:52 left in the fourth. EL plucked away and used a 12-2 run, led by Arnold’s six points and a Harriman 3. That cut the lead to 53-46, but the Rams finished it off with free throws by Julie Arbour, Diplock and Lee.
“We just did a better job working our game plan,” Magnusson said of her team’s second half.