Thursday, December 29, 2011

Southwind blows into Dragon Fire semis

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There was a five-minute run where Southwind was playing exactly how first-year coach Stan Gatlin wants. After that, there were stops, starts, fits, bad spells and foul calls. Lots of foul calls.

But while the Jaguars coach calls his new team "still a work in progress" it managed to work over a scrappy FCA squad, 58-44, in the Dragon Fire Invitational girls tournament quarterfinals Wednesday at Collierville.

The Jaguars (13-2) will play Jonesboro (7-4) tonight in a 6 p.m. semifinal. The nightcap will pit Bartlett (6-5) against Manassas (12-2).

Midway through the second quarter, Southwind tore open an 11-10 game with a 20-0 run. Three times sophomore point guard Amber Holmes found 6-foot senior center Jasmine McCallister inside for baskets -- two of which resulted in fouls and three-point plays. Senior guard Bianca Cage added four of her team-high 17 points and Southwind had things under control.

"We were trusting our offense at that point," said Holmes, who finished with 10 points.

Gatlin said the biggest culture change he's had to make this year is "getting this team to slow the offense down and set up for shots in situations where we have rebounders ready to get the miss. Last year, this team would make a nice play then run down and gun a shot before anyone was ready. Miss, that way, and it's the same as a turnover."

FCA (9-3), despite playing without injured sophomore center Grace Wade, continued to apply defensive pressure. Southwind started to get into foul trouble, especially McAllister who fouled out with five minutes left after scoring 11 points.

"We started getting frustrated and yelling at each other trying to fix it, instead of calming down," said Cage, who exploded for 29 points in a first-round rout of Millington, Gatlin's former team. "We're still looking to bring that first championship trophy of any kind home."

That allowed the Nighthawks to start working on a tentative Jaguar defense for open looks. A poor shooting night kept FCA from getting closer than 13. But it will be a talking point the next time Southwind practices.

"Our kids started to get fouls, and didn't move as much trying not to get the next whistle," Gatlin said, "but that's a good disciplined team that will only get better when Wade comes back."

FCA got 13 points from sophomore guard Jennifer Milewski, 13 from freshman Samantha Price and 10 from junior Lauren Hoyle.

"That's a big, athletic team we faced, and without Grace in the middle we were at a real size disadvantage all night," Nighthawks' coach Scott Milewski said.

In another game:

Bartlett 54, Houston 45: Senior Destiny James had a second big night with 27 points as the Panthers avenged an early-season loss to the Mustangs (7-2). Bartlett's star guard has 51 points in two tournament games. "It's taken a while, but we've started to play more like a team, and a good week here can help," said Bartlett coach Lynn Whitfield. Junior forward Julianne Shiles led Houston with 16 points.

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