Lack of free-throws hurts Lady Raiders in losses

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While not for a lack of effort, the Habersham Central High School Girls’ Basketball team suffered another pair of losses over the weekend, losing to Dacula High School 34-29 Friday night and Lanier High School 41-35 Saturday in Mt. Airy.

“Back-to-back against the top two teams in the region 13 hours apart isn’t what you would hope for to try to get ready for teams that are quite frankly a lot bigger and better than you are,” said coach Bill Bradley. 

The Lady Raiders welcomed the visiting Lady Falcons (17-2) to Mt. Airy Friday for what was sure to be a challenging task, as Dacula boasted both a talented roster and No. 4 ranking in the state, but it was the Lady Raiders who flexed their muscle first.

After taking a 10-5 lead in the first quarter, the Lady Raiders found themselves on the short end of a 9-6 run in the second quarter, but still held a two-point lead at halftime.

Coming out of the break, the Lady Falcons found their groove to the tune of a 10-3 run, but Habersham Central battled back to make things interesting late, keeping pace with Dacula for a 10-10 fourth quarter score. Their comeback attempt would fall short, however, as Dacula held on to win by five.

“The biggest factor, I think, was that we gave up too many offensive rebounds,” Bradley said on the Lady Falcons’ 19 offensive rebounds. “You know you’re going to give up some when you’re playing against a kid who’s 6-foot-4. We’ve got to figure out a way to keep her from getting offensive rebounds.”

Bradley said he thought the Lady Raiders did a good job limiting their turnovers in the game.

“We minimized our turnovers at nine, so we matched [Dacula] there,” he said. “We didn’t give them extra shots or buckets in transition, it just just second-chance points.”

A lack of free-throw attempts was an even larger factor in the outcome, Bradley added.

“At home, we’ve got to figure out a way to get to the free-throw line,” he said. “We shot one free-throw the entire game and our opponent shot nine. Those two factors in a two-possession ballgame can make the difference between winning or losing.”

The Lady Raiders’ lack of free-throw attempts wasn’t for a lack of aggression, Bradley said.

“We just couldn’t get a break,” he said. “It’s hard to say you want to attack the basket when there’s someone 6-foot-4 in there – you feel like you’re going to get something blocked. I feel like on the perimeter, we’ve got to be more physical and not be soft.”

To have played so close with a team like Dacula is something to be proud of, Bradley said.

“I think our kids did a good job – they’re No. 4 in the state for a reason,” he said. “We were competitive with them, we just have to do a couple of things a little bit better and the outcome of the game may change for us.”

Nykerriah Brown led the Lady Raiders with 12 points. Other scorers for Habersham Central included Hailey Wade with eight points, Taylor Wade with seven points and Elizabeth Pollitt with two points.

Due to inclement weather expected Saturday afternoon, the Lady Raiders’ game against Lanier High School – originally scheduled for 6 p.m. – was moved to 12 p.m. The change in time played a factor for the Lady Raiders.

“It was a little different for us, because we had already scheduled our shoot-around for 10 a.m.,” Bradley said. “I probably would have done it differently, but it wasn’t until 9 a.m. that I found out we were going to change the game to earlier. At that point, I couldn’t really tell the kids not to come in.”

Not long after their shoot-around, the Lady Raiders and Lady Longhorns (9-9) tipped off. 

Lanier took a 9-8 lead at the end of the first quarter, then stretched their lead with a 15-10 run in the second quarter. The Lady Raiders shortened the deficit with a 9-8 run in the third quarter, but a 9-8 run from Lanier over the final eight minutes cemented their victory.

“I thought we did a great job,” Bradley said on the narrow loss. “They ran a matchup zone – we could have done a better job with that and I could have done a better job getting our kids prepared for that. We’ll be ready for the matchup zone the next time we play them.”

Bradley added the Lady Raiders need to do a better job boxing out, as they gave up double-digit rebounds again.

“They’re big, strong and athletic,” he said. “That makes a difference. I feel like we’re doing a good job with our half-court defense and a good job of running our offense, we’ve just still got to figure out how to keep bigger and more athletic teams off the glass against us.”

Brown led the Lady Raiders with 12 points. Other scorers included Addie Penick and Hailey Wade with eight points each, Taylor Wade with five points and Pollitt with two points.

The Lady Raiders played Apalachee High School Tuesday in Mt. Airy. Results from the game were unknown by The Northeast Georgian’s press deadline, but will be in the Weekend edition of The Northeast Georgian.