Golden Eagles top Roughriders again
By JEFF GATES
For The Madison Press
NEW ALBANY — Home away from home.
When walking into the New Albany High School gymnasium, the ‘Home of the Eagles’ banner takes center stage.
As the Madison-Plains High School girls basketball team proved Saturday, that court hospitality extended to any other squad that shared a similar nickname.
The Golden Eagles proved they were right at home against cross-county rival West Jefferson as Madison-Plains defeated the Lady Roughriders by a convincing score of 53-27 in the second round of the Central District Division III post-season tournament held at New Albany.
“We played really hard — we hit the boards hard,” Madison-Plains coach Tobi Briggs said. “We don’t want teams to out-hustle us.”
And that certainly didn’t happen Saturday as the Golden Eagles were in charge of the game from start to finish.
Despite what appeared to be near-dominance the first two quarters, Madison-Plains was just up by eight at the intermission, 26-18.
In what seemed at the time a strange strategy, Golden Eagle coach Briggs started the second half with her squad holding the ball on offense, much to the verbal chagrin of a number of people in the crowd.
“We talked at half, and we knew we had to pull them out of their zone,” Briggs said of the type of defense that had been keeping West Jeff in the game. “The girls weren’t too happy about it, but I just told them to be patient.”
It didn’t take long for all to see that Briggs was right. Once West Jeff had to move out to defend the ball, opportunities opened up elsewhere on the offensive end.
“They made us come out of the zone,” said West Jeff coach Tim Converse. “They created off the dribble and took advantage of the opportunities.”
Taking most advantage in the change in strategy was Golden Eagle Kelsey Woodyard, who scored seven consecutive points in the third quarter. Exemplifying her team’s hard-nosed approach to the game, five of her points in that span were from the line. She added another seven in the fourth for an exclamation point to her game-high 22-point performance.
“Kelsey just kind of took over for us,” Briggs said of Woodyard, who was the game’s best player throughout. “She just found a way to get the ball in the hoop.”
And the Golden Eagles drove hard to the hoop. When the ball didn’t go in on the shot, they took advantage of visits to the free throw line. In the end, 23 of Madison-Plains points came from the charity strip with Woodyard and Savanna Nelson leading the way with seven each. Casey Knisley added five, Abby Ames two, and Kaleigh Whitaker a single point.
Many of those offensive opportunities came from chances taken on the defensive end. In addition to Woodyard; Ames, Butts and Abby Finney looked to steal the ball to get it into transition.
“We just wanted to make sure we played good solid defense,” Briggs said. “You can take risks if you convert at the other end.”
Converting and keeping West Jeff in the game the first half was Roughrider Paige Fabry. The post player scored 11 of her squad’s 16 first-half points from the free throw line — drawing fouls with her relentless play underneath.
“The whole point was to try to get it inside,” Converse said. “Sometimes you’re effective, sometimes you’re not.”
Due to injury, West Jeff’s first team all-league point guard Kelsey Kirkpatrick was unfortunately unable to play. While Roughriders Charlie Iams and Taylor McGonigle filled in admirably, the West Jeff coach admits Kirkpatrick’s court management was missed.
Despite that, Converse gave credit to his players for the effort and cross-county opponent for its ability to eventually put the game out of reach.
“Not having Kelsey had an impact — you can’t make excuses,” Converse said. “When they needed to turn it on, they did.”