The Adairsville girls basketball team entered the fourth quarter of Friday's Region 6-AAA game against North Murray with a five-point lead. The Tigers only made one basket and yet managed to increase …
The Adairsville girls basketball team entered the fourth quarter of Friday's Region 6-AAA game against North Murray with a five-point lead.
The Tigers only made one basket and yet managed to increase their lead over the final 8 minutes, using a stellar 11-for-13 showing at the foul line to close out a 39-32 home win.
"We have put a big emphasis and a big focus on free throws the last two weeks," Adairsville head coach Melissa Winters said. "For them to be able to execute that at the line is awesome. To shoot like that in the fourth quarter, that's amazing."
As a team the Tigers made 13 of 16 free throws throughout the game. In the fourth quarter, five different players made at least one foul shot.
On the other side, the Mountaineers went 7-of-17 from the line, including a 3-for-8 performance in the final stanza. A major turning point came with roughly 45 seconds left, when North Murray was fouled on a 3-pointer but missed all three ensuing free throws. Adairsville (5-9, 2-5) led 34-29 at the time.
Friday's victory marked three in a row for the Tigers, including two straight in region play. After limiting Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe to 26 points Tuesday, Adairsville put together another sparkling defensive display against North Murray.
Even still, the Mountaineers led most of the first half before the Tigers rallied late to send the sides into halftime even at 18-18. But after North Murray scored to open the third quarter, Adairsville responded with a 10-1 run that extended into the final period.
Despite pulling within four points on multiple occasions, the Mountaineers never managed to get within a single possession due to the Tigers' success at the charity stripe.
Haley Stiles made all four of her free throws in the fourth quarter, while Lexie Childers went 2-for-2 and made the team's only field goal of the period. The pair of juniors combined for 26 points, with Stiles holding a slim 14-12 edge.
"That means our dynamic duo is coming back," Winters said of the pair. "We had some issues with Lexie being hurt over the last few weeks, last few games. It's good for her to be able to come back like that. She was able to start tonight, and we're putting our chemistry back together."
Adairsville celebrated senior night for the girls team Friday, even though there aren't any players who are actually 12th-graders. However, one of the team's leaders is senior Ji'Leyah Mitchell — an honorable-mention selection on The Daily Tribune News All-County team last year — and Winters was glad she could be recognized.
"She made a move early in the season, which made her ineligible," Winters said of Mitchell. "Now, she's come back and been a part of the team. She actually sparks a lot of energy on the bench every single game. ... That's been a major thing for us, her on the bench being able to help with that."
Mitchell would have had plenty to say in the first quarter, when the Tigers really struggled with pressure from the Mountaineers. Over the middle two periods, Adairsville managed to slow down the tempo, turning the tide in its favor long enough to wrestle control away from the visitors.
"When we can get across halfcourt and run some of those sets, it definitely helps us offensively," Winters said. "We had a couple of opportunities for wide-open layups that we missed, and we should have broken that press a lot sooner. That's something we'll look at and talk about. ...
"Being able to settle down and get them out of that press definitely helped. That helps our game plan a lot. We're not a run-and-gun team. As much as I would like us to be, we're not yet."