SMYRNA -- No. 5 ranked Stewarts Creek's girls broke open a tie at halftime and went on to whip Oakland 75-51 on Tuesday night in a key District 7 matchup.
"I try not to look at the polls or bring any of that up," said Stewarts Creek coach Lindy King. "If you look at the top five you have Riverdale at one, our district opponent, and then there's Bradley Central who would be our sub-state opponent. It leaves one of us out (of state tournament), so I never try to worry about the rankings. In our side of the bracket its night in and night out."
"I know some of the players and parents see and talk about the polls, but it's just not something I talk about. I'm worried about running them for missed layups and offensive rebounds. We talk about not getting a big head and focusing on the next game."
The game was truly a tale of two halves. In fact, the two halves were almost two totally different games, as the 24-point margin of victory for the Lady Red Hawks was built entirely in the second half after the score was knotted at 28 at halftime.
"I told them at halftime I feel like we still have a chip on our shoulder, like we are the old Stewarts Creek, like we should expect to get beat and are not allowed to expect to win," said King. "I want to run, I want to play man to man. We've worked hard on pushing the ball and playing our style, the new Stewarts Creek type of ball. And we didn't do that in the first half so at halftime that's what we talked about."
It was back and forth early until Stewarts Creek scored eight unanswered to build a 13-7 first period lead. Oakland fought back to close the period down 15-11.
The Lady Patriots found a way to temporarily shut down the explosive Creek offense early in the second period. The answer was Lady Patriot Mari Gaines. The 6-foot-1 post towered over the smaller Stewarts Creek girls, and on three consecutive possessions blocked shots that led to turnovers and an 8-0 run that landed Oakland a 26-21 lead with just under three minutes left in the half.
The Lady Red Hawks found their own answer to Gaines in their own Morgan McCrary.
"We weren't really drawing any fouls (on Gaines)," said McCrary. "So I knew we had to just drive in and quit shooting right in front of her, and on defense just box her out and try to get her in foul trouble, and we were able to do those things."
McCrary and teammate Lauren Flowers were able to stop the Patriot momentum and swinging it into a 7-0 run of their own to finish the half, leaving the score gridlocked at 28 all.
Then came the second half and a shift in the layout of the game altogether. It began with Stewarts Creek scoring 12 unanswered in under two minutes on the shoulders of McCrary and the Ferbi sisters, Brianah and Brandi, and continued on to a 25-12 third period, and a game score of 53-40 after three.
The Lady Red Hawks continued their onslaught in the fourth, mainly from the foul line, doubling up on the lead and a final of 75-51.
"Any game is anybody's game," said McCrary. "We just have to bring it every game. I think people are starting to realize how good we are. I mean we try not to let rankings go our head by just focusing on the game in front of us and staying positive as a team. But if it comes up we do use it to pump ourselves up. I think we have worked really hard and deserve the notice and ranking."
McCrary almost did not play due to a hand injury, but fought through and turned in an 11-point performance. The Ferbi sisters led the scoring with Brandi at 18 and Brianah at 14. Gaines led Oakland with 11 points.
Oakland 64, Stewarts Creek 50
The boys game began as a back-and-forth battle that saw Oakland with a 14-10 lead after one period.
However, in the second period the Patriots put on a full-court press that forced five turnovers and sparked a 12-0 run that pushed their lead to 16, 30-14, with 3:17 left in the half. Stewarts Creek was able to stop the run and cut the lead by two behind consecutive buckets by Brayden Jackson to finish the half with Oakland on top 35-21.
Stewarts Creek didn't go down easy, fighting its way back in the third period behind Tyler Conley and Desmond Sales, closing the period on a 16-5 run that brought them to within six at 47-41 in favor of Oakland. Sales had 11 points during the run.
The Red Hawks fought the good fight in the fourth but the offensive fire fizzled, and Oakland was able to reclaim a double-digit lead and finish the game ahead 64-50.
Four Patriots reached double figures, with Jaden Jamison in the lead with 14. Ray Tyler and Keshawn Davidson each had 12, and Tavon Jelks cashed in 10.
Conley had 14 to lead the Red Hawks, followed by Sales with 13 and Jackson with 11.