MCHS holds on vs. Hillgrove to earn spot in Elite Eight
Despite a wobbly second half Wednesday night, Madison County has again achieved “elite” status.
The Lady Raider basketball team withstood a huge late push from visiting Hillgrove to beat the Lady Hawks 64-57 and earn a trip to the Elite Eight at the University of West Georgia Friday.
“My personal goal for this team was to make it to a central location (in the state tournament),” coach Dan Lampe said. “Now that you’re there, you want to keep going. But our seniors … I didn’t want them to finish on their own home court.”
The Lady Raiders (24-6) will play Northwest Whitfield at 7 p.m. on the West Georgia campus in Carrollton. Northwest Whitfield, which beat Mays 57-53 Wednesday, defeated Madison County 49-42 earlier this year.
Lampe said he likes the neutral-site rounds of the state tournament.
“I like getting it at a central location,” he said. “It makes it feel like a state event.”
Madison County had perhaps already mentally moved on the Elite Eight round during the second half Wednesday, allowing a 49-27 third quarter lead to dwindle to just four points in the fourth quarter.
But the Lady Raiders put together a 9-3 run to push their lead back out to 64-54 and send Hillgrove (22-8) packing.
This is Madison County’s second trip to the Elite Eight in the last three years.
“They deserve it,” Lampe said, noting his seniors. “They’ve worked hard for four years … So they deserve all the acclaim that anybody can give them because they did it with sheer hard work.”
Madison County built a big lead against Hillgrove thanks to a huge first half from Lauren Smith. The senior guard scored 15 points as the Lady Raiders led 38-22 at the break. She finished with 23 points. Smith is averaging 18.4 points a game in the postseason.
The Lady Raiders appeared to have Hillgrove buried by the middle of the third quarter with a 9-1 run that put them up by 22 points.
“That was perfect,” Lampe said his teams’s first two and a half quarters of play. “You want that lead, but if we didn’t have it, my gosh, what would have happened coming down to the fourth quarter?”
Lampe said his team got careless with the ball as the Lady Hawks caught fire and eventually cut the advantage to 55-51 before Madison County made its final push.
“When we’re up by 22 points, we’ve got to take care of the ball,” Lampe said. “We’ve got to quit trying to be fancy with it. We’ve got to be smart with the ball. That’s the bottom line.”
Madison County had three other scorers besides Smith to reach double figures. Molly Glaze added 14, Kayla Freeman finished with 13 and Shantydra Arnold had 10.
Despite an uneasy second half, Lampe wasn’t complaining as his team is still playing basketball in March.
“We won,” Lampe said. “I’m not going to dwell on that. We’ll just move on.”