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Clarke County earns way to area title game

By By SCOTT COOPER – Sports Writer
In the Feb. 7 opening round of the Class 3A Area-1 tournament being held at T.R. Miller High School, the Clarke County Babes established control early and went on to defeat the W.S. Neal Lady Eagles, 65-29.
With the win, Clarke County (6-18) earned the right to meet the T.R. Miller Lady Tigers in the area finale on Feb. 11 at 6:00 p.m. while the loss eliminated the Lady Eagles (3-18) from postseason competition.
The first few minutes of the opening quarter were a preview of things to come, as the Babes hit the floor running and forced Neal into a comeback mode. With a full-court pressing defense that created numerous Lady Eagle turnovers, Clarke County built an 8-0 lead midway through the period. The Babes' edge on the boards coupled Neal's cold shooting from the floor spelled trouble for the Lady Eagles as the quarter evolved. Entering the second stanza, the Lady Eagles found themselves down 14-0.
While Neal continued to struggle from the floor early in the second period, the Babes were in a groove and stretched their advantage to an insurmountable margin, 25-0. However, a quarter-ending Lady Eagles' rally put them on the scoreboard and signaled the beginning of greater offensive production.
Tikeria Matthews's running layup made the score 25-2 with 4:27 left before halftime, and after Clarke County registered the next five points that stretched their lead to 30-2, the Lady Eagles went on an 8-6 run before intermission. Baskets by Timiya Nolan and Lilly Fantroy coupled with four points from Olivia Thompson cut the deficit to 36-10 at the break.
The Lady Eagles' resurgence continued over the opening minutes of the third quarter. Matthews, Nolan and Thompson went to work and led Neal on a 9-4 run that reduced the lead down to 40-19 with 2:08 remaining in the period. But, Clarke County answered by scoring the next six points and held a 46-19 advantage entering the final eight minutes of play.
Although the Lady Eagles maintained their strong offensive production in the fourth stanza, it did little to affect the outcome of the contest. Matthews scored six points as the Lady Eagles held their own over the final minutes of competition, but Clarke County's overwhelming lead remained intact as they polished off a 36-point win that placed them in the tournament finals.
Tikeria Matthews led the Lady Eagles with 11 points. Olivia Thompson and Timiya Nolan added eight and six points, respectively.