Summitt hands Ellis girls a tough loss

Published 11:54 pm Tuesday, January 31, 2023

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

Leading by seven at halftime and by four after the third quarter, the Ellis girls basketball team had a prime opportunity clinch at least a share of first place when it hosted Summit on Jan. 24.

But Lilli Kelly and the Eagles snatched the win from Ellis’ grasp in the fourth quarter, winning 34-29 and leaving the Jaguars (11-2) to wonder what could have been.

Both of their losses have been at the hands of Summit, which took over sole possession of first and dropped Ellis and Phoenix Academy into a tie for second. The score of the first meeting was 44-31 on Dec. 6. Ellis ripped off seven straight wins before the rematch with Summit.

“This is a game our girls have been looking forward to playing since Summit was our only loss,” coach Susan Jones said. “So we entered this game with high emotion and felt the girls were prepared.”

The Jaguars’ offense struggled in the first quarter, but things were OK because their defense was causing similar problems for Summit, which led 6-4 after seven minutes.

“The girls started out confident and played their usual tough defense,” Jones said. “It helped that we had Gracyn Coleman returning for limited minutes after her injury (forced her to miss the previous two games). She was probably playing at about 70 percent of her usual speed, but as always, even that is helpful.”

Offensively, the Jaguars hit their stride in the second quarter. Olivia Smith and Cayleigh Love engineered a 16-7 run that lifted Ellis to a 20-13 halftime lead.

The third quarter wasn’t great, but Ellis managed to take a 25-21 lead into the fourth.

“Offensively, it took us a little while to relax and get going,” Jones said. “By the second quarter, our offense came together and the girls executed everything very well.”

Ellis could smell the regular-season championship, but the Eagles found resolve with their backs against the wall. They dominated the fourth and dealt Ellis a hard-to-swallow loss.

“Summit switched defenses because they were behind, and this is something the girls had prepared for,” Jones said “But they struggled setting up the offense and never could get into a rhythm.”

Summit rallied to tie with three minutes left. Madison Daugherty delivered a huge basket to give Ellis a 29-27 lead, but on the next possession, Kelly hit a 3 that ignited a 7-0 game-closing run.

“This play seemed to take the wind out of our sails,” Jones said.

Kelly (24 points) is a monster. In the two games against Ellis, the star player accounted for 48 of Summit’s 78 points.

Smith (12 points, six rebounds, two steals) and Emmie Burris (nine points, six steals, two assists) did the heavy lifting for Ellis, with Smith recording double figures for the fifth straight game. Love had four points and two assists. Daugherty and Quinn Cornatzer had two points apiece.

“Losing is never easy, but we learned a lot from the loss and feel it will better prepare us for the (conference tournament),” Jones said.

Wesleyan 44, ND 40

Despite trailing 29-21 at the end of the third quarter, feisty North Davie cut the margin to one before running out of steam against visiting Wesleyan Christian Academy on Jan. 23.

It was an admirable effort after losing to the Trojans by 15 on Dec. 6.

“It seems like we just couldn’t catch a break in the last minute,” coach Trish King said. “The girls gave it all they had. What a great game for us.”

The Wildcats led by two after the first and trailed by one at halftime. After getting outplayed in the third, they put up 19 points in the fourth. Avarie Martin, Audrina Bledsoe and Maddie Ratledge led the charge as North closed within one with a minute remaining.

Martin finished with 18 points, followed by Ratledge (nine), Hayden Gavura (seven), Bledsoe (four) and Landry Parsons (two).

“This team has improved so much,” King said, beaming. “I wish I had another month with them. It’s by far one of my most enjoyable seasons.”

ND 48, Millennium 28

Martin was dominant once again as North cruised at Millennium Charter on Jan. 26. The North big girl burned the Lions for a career-high-matching 28 points, and her 16.5 average is North’s highest in 10 years.

Ratledge (six), Parsons (six), Gavura (two), Britt Carrier (two), Maybn Morris (two) and Bledsoe (two) contributed points as the Wildcats closed the regular season 7-6 – quite a jump from last year’s 1-8 mark.

Notes: The Wildcats have been the definition of a rollercoaster. They have alternated wins and losses for six straight games. Their longest winning streak is two; their longest losing streak is two. … Martin’s average is the highest by a Wildcat since K’lea Parks’ 16.2 in 2012-13. That same year Ashlyn Hampton averaged 15.4 for a King-coached team that went 17-0.