Lady Cards Win 5A West Dis­trict Tour­ney Cham­pi­onship

LADY CAR­DI­NALS WIN CON­FER­ENCE TOUR­NEY

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Mark Humphrey

FARM­ING­TON — De­fen­sive stands in crit­i­cal sit­u­a­tions com­bined with an op­por­tunis­tic of­fense pro­pelled Farm­ing­ton to the 2018 5A West Con­fer­ence tour­na­ment cham­pi­onship by a 63-56 score over Vilo­nia Fri­day at Car­di­nal Arena.

To the ca­sual ob­server a first glance at the sta­tis­tics looks like Farm­ing­ton got blitzed by Vilo­nia sopho­more cen­ter Paige Kel­ley, who car­ried the Lady Ea­gles with 35 points on 11-of-15 free throw shoot­ing. Kel­ley played an out­stand­ing game record­ing a game-high 12 field goals, yet the fact re­mains — Farm­ing­ton won the trade­off and the game us­ing five dif­fer­ent play­ers to guard Kel­ley.

“They’re a dif­fi­cult matchup to de­fend be­cause they have that big kid (Kel­ley) and she’s so tal­ented,” said Farm­ing­ton coach Brad John­son. “They also have some kids, who can shoot it. That’s kind of their bread and but­ter, go­ing in­side to her or hav­ing her kick it out to the 3-point shoot­ers. You have to be care­ful. It’s kind of a pick your poi­son kind of a thing. I’m so proud of our kids guard­ing their perime­ter and not let­ting them get loose.”

While the Lady Car­di­nals were forced at times to con­cede buck­ets in the paint to the taller Kel­ley listed at 5-feet-10 but more likely around 6-feet, they blanked her dur­ing a strate­gic 3:29 span in the fourth quar­ter — and for most of the fi­nal two min­utes. Kel­ley’s last field goal came with 1:54 re­main­ing cour­tesy of Lau­ren Pat­ter­son, who drove hard to the goal, failed to score, then found her­self sur­rounded af­ter claim­ing her own re­bound. She found Kel­ley in front of the rim with the bas­ket trim­ming Farm­ing­ton’s lead to 59-55.

Kel­ley was also held score­less for the first 1:29 of the fourth, dur­ing which time Farm­ing­ton upped a 7-point ad­van­tage at the end of the third pe­riod into a 52-40 lead.

“She’s def­i­nitely a lot big­ger than me,” said 5-feet-7 Farm­ing­ton ju­nior Madisyn Pense, who cheated over dou­ble-team­ing Kel­ley fre­quently. “Once you con­trol her it’s hard for her to score. That was the whole point to get her to stop scor­ing.”

Vilo­nia was only able to make Farm­ing­ton pay for that tactic once through­out the fourth when Kel­ley passed to Aaliyah Cash, who knocked down a 3-pointer from the left wing cut­ting Farm­ing­ton’s lead to 54-48 at the 4:40 mark. The Lady Ea­gles were lim­ited to four made 3-point­ers for the game and re­lied heav­ily upon Kel­ley’s scor­ing. When she wasn’t pro­duc­ing points for a com­bined 6:51 of the fourth Farm­ing­ton was outscor­ing Vilo­nia 16-9.

Kel­ley had no put­backs in the fourth as Farm­ing­ton boxed her out. The phys­i­cal toll may have caught up to her in the end. She did have an of­fen­sive re­bound, but missed a shot at point-blank range as did Pat­ter­son in a se­quence that ended with Anthea Jones clear­ing a de­fen­sive re­bound for Farm­ing­ton with 21.3 sec­onds to play.

Jones missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but Kel­ley couldn’t keep the Lady Car­di­nals off the boards. First 5-feet-10 Farm­ing­ton sopho­more Au­drey Culpep­per got off a shot, then came 5-feet-8 Alexis Roach climb­ing the glass, who was fouled and sank both free throws to ice the game with 17.3 sec­onds show­ing.

At least twice in the third quar­ter 5-feet-7 Farm­ing­ton sopho­more Makenna Van­zant yanked away de­fen­sive re­bounds in front of Kel­ley. The first re­sulted in a quick out­let to Pense across the time­line, who in turn, threw the ball to a sprint­ing Roach for a layup to re­store Farm­ing­ton to a six-point lead of 43-37 af­ter the Lady Car­di­nals weath­ered a 9-0 Vilo­nia run. Kel­ley was called for over-the-back on the sec­ond that helped Farm­ing­ton keep Vilo­nia with­out any points over the fi­nal 3:25 of the third and take a 47-40 lead into the fourth quar­ter.

“One of our main goals for the game was to help on Kel­ley,” Van­zant said. “We had to block her out be­cause she’s ex­tremely good at go­ing for of­fen­sive re­bounds. My main goal was to block my player out and go­ing for the ball.”

John­son had high praise for start­ing cen­ter 5-feet-9 Joelle Tid­well,

who fearlessly drove to the bas­ket chal­leng­ing Kel­ley and draw­ing fouls.

“Joelle Tid­well re­ally came on,” John­son said. “She had a tremen­dous tour­na­ment all week. She’s be­gin­ning to see what she has of­fen­sively.”

Tid­well got off to a good start scor­ing 7 of her 11 points in the first quar­ter. Vilo­nia opened up an early 7-3 lead with two buck­ets by Kel­ley in­side and Laney Mears’ 3-pointer, her only score of the game. Tid­well sank 2-of-2 free throws and 1:36 later re­peated the per­for­mance with an “And One” to off­set Kel­ley’s 3-point play ty­ing the game at 10-all.

Trail­ing a fast-break Tid­well ran down the lane and her team­mates found her be­fore Kel­ley could ro­tate over. The tran­si­tion bucket gave Farm­ing­ton a 15-13 lead. Mid­way through the third Tid­well took the ball right at Kel­ley mak­ing a layup on the run. She had yet an­other driv­ing lay-in on the base­line to put Farm­ing­ton up, 54-45, with 5:09 re­main­ing in the fourth.

Culpep­per’s of­fense against Kel­ley helped. Eleven sec­onds af­ter Kel­ley put in a Lady Ea­gle miss, Culpep­per hit a 3-pointer at the other end as Farm­ing­ton scored 12 of the first 14 points of the sec­ond quar­ter. She banked in a shot mov­ing to the bas­ket fol­low­ing a Vilo­nia turnover and Farm­ing­ton took a 34-25 lead into the half.

MARK HUMPHREY EN­TER­PRISE-LEADER

The Farm­ing­ton girls bas­ket­ball team won the 5A West Dis­trict tour­na­ment cham­pi­onship with a 63-56 vic­tory over Vilo­nia Fri­day in the con­fer­ence fi­nals at Car­di­nal Arena. This marks the sec­ond time Farm­ing­ton has won the tour­na­ment since 2015 un­der coach Brad John­son.

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