By Maurice Patton
HAMPSHIRE – Derrick Adkison had a sound defensive game plan for his Culleoka team heading into Tuesday’s District 10-A Tournament semifinal contest against host Hampshire.
Hailey Potts, the Lady Hawks’ junior guard, spoiled it.
Potts, who had scored four total points in the two regular-season matchups with the Lady Warriors, hit four 3-pointers as Hampshire won 53-46 and advanced into Wednesday’s tourney title game against regular-season champion Richland.
“She was huge,” Lady Hawks coach Ronnie Brewer said. “We’ve been asking her to shoot, but she’s so unselfish. She hit four 3s a couple of weeks ago, against Frank Hughes.
“We sat her down and told her, when she hits those, (opponents) have to move out on her. We moved her to the wing to try to get her that shot.”
With the presence of Kayla Stephens, one of the area’s top 3-point shooters, and posts Karlee and Kortney Rowland, Culleoka’s intention was to help off Potts into the paint.
“She made us pay for it,” Adkison said. “She made some open shots. She hadn’t shot it well against us before.
“You’ve got to hand it to her.”
Potts dialed long distance twice in the opening quarter, the second coming with two seconds remaining to pull her team within a point at 11-10. Early in the second period, she hit another to put Hampshire (15-7) ahead 15-14, as the lead changed hands throughout the night.
A Stephens trey just before halftime contributed to a 7-1 spurt that gave Hampshire a 24-20 advantage at intermission, and the Rowland sisters extended the margin to 30-23 in the opening stages of the third quarter. However, foul trouble limited their availability and effectiveness as Culleoka (8-11) rallied to force a 34-all deadlock heading into the fourth period.
“At one time, we didn’t have a post on the floor for about four minutes,” Brewer said.
While the visitors were able to exploit that weakness to a degree – Breanna Dickson finished with a game-high 16 points – Potts helped Hampshire pull away with one final 3 with 3:28 to play, giving her team a 47-42 lead that held up.
“A lot of girls stepped up,” Potts said. “It was a big team effort. We hadn’t played as strong as we needed to our last few games.”
As much as Potts contributed to the outcome, Adkison also pointed to his team’s struggles at the foul line. Culleoka went 13-for-22, while Hampshire hit 11 of 16 free throws.
“It’s hard to win close games if you don’t make free throws,” he said.
Stephens scored 12 and added a trey for Hampshire — the Lady Hawks finished with six — with Karlee Rowland adding 10.
While Hampshire will play Wednesday at Richland, Culleoka will host Santa Fe in the district tourney consolation game Wednesday at 6 p.m.
Both the Lady Warriors and the Lady Wildcats will travel for the Region 5-A quarterfinals – a detail not lost on either coach.
“You want to come out and play for a championship, but you’re really trying to move on in the region,” Adkison said. “It’s easier when you can win this game and host. We’re definitely going to have to get ready to play a good team.”
“It’s huge, for the region,” Brewer said. “We get to stay home, we get the ‘3’ or the ‘4’ (from District 9-A), which is big, because both their ‘1’ and ‘2’ are super.”
Hampshire girls 53, Culleoka 46
C 11 9 14 12 – 46
H 10 14 10 19 – 53
Culleoka (46) – Tyler Reischman 5, Alex Skinner 7, Maci McKennon 8, Hannah Collins 9, Breanna Dickson 16, Madison Ingram 1
Hampshire (53) – Hailey Potts 12, Kortney Rowland 8, Kayla Stephens 12, Kadence Stoner 4, Madison Cagle 7, Karlee Rowland 10
3-pointers – Culleoka 3 (Collins 3), Hampshire 6 (Potts 4, Stephens, Cagle)