Lady Cougars rally for season-opening win

Cedar Creek Katie Hall sported a sparkling green jacket during the Lady Cougars 55-53 win over Saline Tuesday night. (Photo by Darrell James)

By Malcolm Butler

Not everything that glitters turns out to be gold.

The old cliche was proven right and wrong on Tuesday night during Cedar Creek’s 55-53 win over Saline in the season opener at the Brickhouse.

Head coach Katie Hall’s jacket definitely glittered — green not gold — but it glittered just the same, as did the Lady Cougars come-from-behind victory.

Hall said the jacket was a gift from a friend during the post-game press conference.

“Kim Mulkey can’t have all the fashion fun,” joked Hall.

Hall’s jacket wasn’t the only thing that was fun. So was the Lady Cougars win.

Trailing by as many as 13-points (34-21) early in the third quarter, the Lady Cougar rallied in large part to some timely bench production from a pair of freshmen. Mary Grace Hawkins and Alivia Lee combined to score 10 of 12 points during a 12-1 run to close the third quarter. It started with five quick points by Hawkins and ended on a 25-foot three-pointer by Lee at the buzzer, tying the game at 37-37 heading into the final stanza.

“That was huge,” said Hall. “I wasn’t anticipating them having that kind of spark and impact on this game. I can only hope and wish for that. I felt like they gained some confidence in themselves. I believed in them. It was a great spark. I was impressed.”

The fourth quarter saw a back-and-forth affair that saw four lead changes and five ties. Olivia Underwood scored the first four points of the quarter and then Mallory Smith got hot, scoring eight of her game-high 16 points in the final eight minutes of play.

With Saline up 48-45, Leah Sutherland drained a three-pointer with 3:30 remaining to tie the game. Saline then scored five straight to lead 53-48 with just over two and a half minutes to play, but the Lady Cougars would clamp down defensively the rest of the way.

Smith scored back-to-back buckets to close the deficit to 53-52 and then Ainsley Riley hit a layup with just 48 seconds to play to make it 54-53 Cedar Creek.

Saline had an opportunity with 10 seconds to play on an inbounds play under its own bucket, but Sutherland came up with a steal and then hit 1-of-2 free throws to make it 55-53 with 7.6 remaining.

The Bobcats last ditch effort nearly found the net, but a desperation three-pointer banked off the backboard, rattled off the rim and fell to the floor as the horn sounded.

Cedar Creek couldn’t buy a bucket in the opening two quarters, trailing 17-11 at the end of the first and 26-21 at halftime. Hall said she felt it was just a matter of making shots.

“I really felt like we were getting shots that we wanted, but they just weren’t falling,” said Hall of the first two quarters. “And they were hitting shots. They were getting the shots that they wanted and they were making them. We were getting the shots that we wanted and we were just missing them.”

In addition to Smith’s 16 points, Caroline James added eight, Hawkins seven, Underwood six and Lee five in the win.