PREP BASKETBALL

Saving their best for last

Lady Wolverines use strong second-half surge for 72-47 playoff victory over Scott’s Branch

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TURBEVILLE - Like his team, East Clarendon High School girls basketball head coach Mike Lowder was frustrated for much of the first half of Thursday's 1A state playoff second-round game against Scott's Branch.

"We're so impatient sometimes because we do like to run," Lowder said. "We never could get into our offense, which is something we're going to have to be able to do as early as Monday.

" But the second half is usually our half anyway."

Was it ever. The Lady Wolverines outscored Scott's Branch 43-17 over the final 16 minutes to pull away for a decisive 72-47 victory at the ECHS gymnasium.

East Clarendon, which was coming off a bye after earning the program's first region title since 1971, improved to 14-7 overall and captured its first playoff victory since 2011. The Lady Wolverines will host Charleston Charter, a 46-44 winner over Lake View, on Monday at 7 p.m. for a spot in the lower state finals.

Scott's Branch finished the year with a 9-9 overall mark, although the Lady Eagles were in control for most of the first half. Behind Cambria Parker, Teja Madison and Mary Wimberly, SBHS built a 15-12 lead after one quarter and led 30-29 at the break.

A pair of buckets by Wimberly and a 3-pointer from Tonia Lawson near the end of the second quarter gave the Lady Eagles the largest lead of the game, 30-23, for either team at that point.

However, in perhaps a season-saving stretch, East Clarendon got six straight points from Valencia Garris to close out the half. Garris finished with 12 points, including 10 in the second frame, as she helped pick up the offensive slack when All-State selection Talaysia Cooper was relegated to the bench after picking up three fouls.

"She's so young - seventh-grader - and she tries so hard until she pushes herself into fouls sometimes," Lowder said of Cooper. "Credit to their coach because they put a little more pressure on us. Credit to my other two guards and captains Caitlin Timmons and Gracen Watts, who did an outstanding job of taking care of the ball.

"And Valencia that was a life-saver, that little stretch."

Cooper and the EC offense came back with a vengeance in the second half, though. Cooper, Timmons and Watts each scored seven points in the third quarter as the Lady Wolverines built a 50-43 lead.

That momentum carried over into the fourth when EC quickly put the game away, outscoring Scott's Branch 9-0 to start the stanza and outscoring them 22-4 overall.

It was a frustrating finish for Lady Eagles head coach Steve Nelson in more ways than one.

"We kind of played to their tempo in the second half," Nelson said. "We were taking outside jump shots instead of doing what we did in the first half and that was attacking the basket.

"The girls felt like they had to take 3-pointers."

Part of the reason for that was the way the game was called, Nelson said. Fifty-two total fouls were assessed, including 30 against Scott's Branch.

"The girls got a little tentative on the defensive end, and you can't play good defense when you're tentative," he said.

Cooper wound up with a game-high 19 points for the Lady Wolverines to go along with 14 rebounds. Watts followed with 18 points and Timmons added 14 points and 13 rebounds.

Garris also had a monster night under the boards for ECHS, finishing with 16 rebounds.

Parker and Lawson led SBHS with 12 points each followed by Wimberly with 10. Parker also had seven rebounds while Chaniya Monroe led the team with nine.