(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
BENTON -- It looks as if the inexperience of the Kelly Lady Hawks is starting to fade away.
Kelly, who is riding a four game winning streak after Monday, avenged an earlier season loss to the Charleston Lady Bluejays, 67-61.
"That just shows the improvement that our young girls have made over the year," Kelly head coach Rod McQuerter said. "To beat a great team like Charleston, says a lot our girls. They've been battling all year for a win like this."
The Lady Hawks, who start three freshman, relied on a deep bench and the help of senior Bridgette Chandler to outlast a Charleston team who battled foul problems to their top performers.
A total of 57 fouls were called in the game. Each team shot 36 free throws for a combined 72 attempts from the charity stripe.
It was just the type of pace and physicality Kelly (6-9) needed to slow down the Lady Bluejays, who prefer a more up-beat, quicker game.
"Our game is playing fast," Charleston head coach Josh Thompson said. "When the whistle gets blown that much it interrupts the flow of our game. We had some key players foul out and we couldn't get in the flow."
Chandler, who led all scorers with 26 points, thrived at the free throw line nailing 16 of 19 which included a perfect 8 of 8 in the fourth quarter.
As a team, Kelly shot 23 of 36 while Charleston was an almost equal 21 of 36.
"The whole goal was to do what we do best and not what they do best," McQuerter said. "Our games have to be long and they have to be physical. That's the way we play. We go 15 deep and we have to make it a long, grind it out, basketball game."
To start, Charleston gained the upper hand behind an early nine first quarter points from their leading scorer, E'Neikqua Ewing, who finished with 20.
Kelly, who only converted two field goals in the first eight minutes, took advantage of their time at the free throw line to stay afloat. They knocked down eight of eight in the first quarter -- six from Chandler -- to help with a 17-12 deficit after one.
Although the Lady Bluejays held the lead for most of the first half, paltry shooting finally caught up with them.
After going 7 of 24 in the first quarter, Charleston (10-8) ended the first half with a 28 percent field goal pace (9 of 32). Kelly eventually grabbed a lead with 1:55 left in the second quarter when Kelly freshman Logan Ivie connected on back to back buckets to give the Lady Hawks a 27-25 advantage.
"We were 10 for 23 at the line in the first half and we had missed seven or eight easy buckets," Thompson said about his team's first half shooting troubles. "Maybe if we make those in the first half, it doesn't come down to being in foul trouble in the second half."
A basket by Kelly freshman Tessa Johnson and three free throws from Charleston, left the halftime score at 29-28 Kelly.
Entering the third quarter, the Lady Bluejays had already stumbled upon the problems of foul trouble.
Not willing to risk losing two of his three best players -- Kasuela Cooper and Dazique Gillespie, who each had three fouls -- early in the second half, Thompson elected to sit both to start the third quarter. Ewing, who had three fouls herself, stayed in the game and scored seven, third quarter points.
Although they lost ground by keeping their stars off the court and relied on mainly junior varsity players, Thompson felt relieved to be down only five points, 47-42, heading into the final quarter.
"I thought to myself that if we can be down 10 going into the fourth quarter, we'll be doing great," said Thompson. "I'm so proud of our jayvee kids and how they stepped up when we needed them.
Kelly, however, kept rolling with the help of Tessa Johnson who poured in nine points in the third quarter.
Cooper, Gillespie and fellow starter Jamisha Hamilton eventually fouled out for Charleston. The Lady Hawks out-paced the visitors 20-19 to sustain their lead which never got below five points in the fourth quarter.
CHARLESTON (61) -- Sierra Frazier 9, Juwanna Walker 9, Kasuela Cooper 11, E'Neikqua Ewing 20, Dazique Gillespie 4, Marshavia Ewing 3, Elaysa Henderson 5. FG 20 FT 21-36 F 30 (3-pointers: none. Fouled out: Cooper, Gillespie, Hamilton.)
KELLY (67) -- Sam Ratledge 6, Tessa Johnson 15, Bridgette Chandler 26, Stephanie Worth 4, Karlie Ashcraft 4, Logan Ivie 4, Payton Jones 4, Jessica Worth 4. FG 22 FT 23-36 F 27 (3-pointers: none. Fouled out: S. Worth.)