Lady Bulldogs beat Hazlehurst for district title

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

FAYETTE &045; It had been a long time. Long enough that some of the players were still in diapers the last time it happened.

Franklin County coach Charles Moore said it’s been 15 years since the Lady Bulldogs won a district title.

The wait is over.

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Franklin County (22-6) beat Hazlehurst (19-14) 53-37 in the Division 7-3A championship game Friday night, ending that championship drought.

For six Franklin County seniors, it was the culmination of a long career that had its share of low points.

&uot;It feels so great. I’ve been with this program for a long time,&uot; Ashley Weatherby, a senior starter for Franklin, said. &uot;There have been a lot of stepping stones. We get better every year. I think we only won like three games my first year.&uot;

With the win, Franklin will host a first-round playoff game, probably Monday night.

Though the final score wasn’t that close, it was anything but an easy win for the Lady Bulldogs.

Against an unusual Hazlehurst defense, Franklin County didn’t panic. In the first half, the Lady Bulldogs struggled to score, getting just four points in the first quarter. Franklin County’s best player, Victoria Hunt, had considerable trouble scoring in the early going.

&uot;Vicky didn’t quit,&uot; Franklin County coach Charles Moore said. &uot;She went in there and hit the boards and played tough defense.&uot;

Hunt eventually found her offense as well, scoring 13 points. But against the Hazlehurst defense, it took Franklin County some time to adjust. The Lady Indians ran a box-and-one, face-guarding one player &045; Victoria Hunt &045; and playing a zone with the other four defenders.

&uot;They played a box-and-one, and we had thought they might because they did against Wilkinson County (Thursday),&uot; Moore said. &uot;But it’s one thing to practice for it and another to play against it in a game. It took the first half to adjust to what they were doing. The rest of the players except Vicky (Victoria Hunt) had to have confidence.&uot;

Two of the players who stepped up big for the Lady Bulldogs were Tamara Gant, who scored 14 points, and Katherine Leggett who had nine. Together, they made three 3-pointers as both hit some open looks from the perimeter.

&uot;When Katherine Leggett came in the game, she hit some big shots,&uot; Moore said. &uot;I don’t know if she had one or two 3s, but she really helped.&uot;

The third quarter opened things up for the Lady Bulldogs. Franklin outscored Hazlehurst 20-3 in the quarter, including a 14-0 run to end the period. Leggett and Gant combined for 11 points in the period while Victoria Hunt and Shareka Hunt hit the backboards hard, giving the Lady Bulldogs plenty of second-chance opportunities.

&uot;We just reacted to it,&uot; Weatherby said. &uot;We made a lot of mental mistakes in the first half. We had to get used to players taking different roles.&uot;

Hazlehurst made some mental mistakes of its own in the third. Two offensive fouls in the lat 1:28 of the quarter hurt the Lady Indians, costing them two opportunities to score.

By the end of the third period, Franklin led 37-20 and appeared to have the game all but won. Hazlehurst made just four of its 11 free throw attempts in the fourth period, further damaging its chances.

The Lady Indians started going to the basket aggressively in the final minutes, trying to score points quickly and get back in the game. Hazlehurst’s Sheba Smith scored all of her 10 points in the final period, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

Smith and YaShunda Williams each had 10 points for the Lady Indians.