The Bulloch Academy Gators don’t play GHSA public schools very often in athletics but Lady Gator basketball coach Chandler Dennard would like to do it much more often. The Gators are playing in a holiday tournament in Swainsboro and lost to the host team 36-27 Monday night.
The Gators had some moments but couldn’t get their half-court offense going and struggled with turnovers and free throw shooting, but overall Dennard was happy they got to play some competition and felt pretty pleased in some areas.
“We really needed this type of a game,” said Dennard. “We did what we wanted to do we just couldn’t shoot the ball. We missed wide open layups and struggled with our half-court offense. If we could have hit a few of the layups we missed, I feel it could have been a good game at the end.”
The No. 1 ranked Gators rolled into this week with a 7-0 record having simply crushed their opposition, winning by an average margin of 60-26 and haven’t been challenged since their season opening win over Brentwood. Monday the Gators had their hands full, but were able to hang tough for the first quarter and actually led 10-5 thanks to three pointers by Kacie Ricketts and Ashantay Noble and their full court defensive pressure.
In the second quarter the Lady Tigers turned up the pressure on defense and the Gators only points came on an Armani Cooke layup. The Tigers went on a 13-2 run in the second led by seven straight points by Serah Kelly to take a 23-12 halftime lead.
“I think the game was really decided there in the second quarter,” said Dennard. “They went on a 7-0 run and even though we cut into the lead in the second half, that run really hurt us.”
The Gators did fight back in the second half coming out of the gates with some pressure and scoring the first two baskets of the half on layups by Sarah Evans and Cooke, but the Tigers went on another 7-0 run to extend their lead to 12. The Gators cut the lead to seven on a pair of Sophie Strickland free throws with four minutes left, but the Tigers ran some clock with the Gators in a zone defense and made a couple baskets when the Gators finally switched to man-to-man.
“Defensively we did a heck of a job holding them to just 36 points,” said Dennard. “We haven’t been challenged in a while and we needed something like this to expose our flaws. We are trying to play as tough competition as we can because we want to make a state playoff run. We want to improve and the tournament we are playing this week and the one we play in Macon next week will make us a better team.”
Nobles led the Gators with 12 points while Kelly led the Tigers with nine points. Up next the Gators take on Screven County at 5:00 as the tournament concludes on Tuesday.