FROSTBURG — Southern had the answer for every question Mountain Ridge tossed its way Thursday evening, solving the press and dominating the inside on its way to handing the Miners their first loss, 44-32, in an early season meeting between two of top teams in the Appalachian Mountain Athletic Conference.
Lauren Francillon finished with 10 points, scoring seven of them as the Rams pulled away during the fourth quarter, blocked eight shots and had seven rebounds as the Rams’ biggest weapon, but it was their ability to adapt and respond on the move that set Southern apart on Thursday.
The Miners began the night by applying full-court pressure, which did slow down Southern during the first quarter and led to the Miners carrying a 10-9 lead into the second quarter. The pressure helped Sarah Raines come away with a steal on the Rams’ first possession which she took the rest of the floor herself for the first points of the night. Anna Broadwater registered the next basket to make it 4-0 and give the Miners, who seemed to have the edge in intensity during the early going, their largest lead. They would lead 8-5 with 2:40 left in the first and 10-9 at the end of the quarter, but lost the lead and never regained it when Kambrie Bosley drained a three-pointer to make the score 12-10 just 18 seconds into the second.
“We’ve been practicing against the press since Day 1,” said Danny Bosley, head coach of the defending area champion Rams. “We usually welcome the press as a team and practice enough on it that we want teams to run it against us. We tell the kids that if they want to press us, we’ll take it and shoot layups.”
Breaking Mountain Ridge’s press may have meant not giving back the lead, but the Miners wouldn’t go away peacefully. Raines helped keep them close by scoring five of her 11 points during a two-minute span near the end of the half that allowed Mountain Ridge to hang within three by the horn.
“Sarah can make a lot of stuff happen for us as a point guard,” Mountain Ridge head coach Valery Broadwater said. “We let her take advantage of her height as a point guard to get some mismatches that usually go to our advantage. Southern answered that by putting Francillon in the paint and I think that affected her shots somewhat in the second half.”
Raines converted a three-point play that drew the Miners to within one, 18-17, and Broadwater tied the score at 21 with 31 seconds left in the first half, but Faith Tichnell made a bucket and the bonus foul shot to give Southern a 24-21 edge at the break.
While the Rams (5-2, 2-0 AMAC) looked to move the ball inside as their second-half adjustment, the Miners looked to subdue the outside shooting of Bosley and the inside play of Alicia Roth.
“We felt that those two players were hurting us the most and if we didn’t switch the way we were playing them, we couldn’t slow them down,” Broadwater said. “We were able to accomplish those two goals, but then Francillon stepped up to fill that hole.”
After Roth scored eight points in the first half, the Miners limited her to only two more in the second. The same went with Bosley, who scored 10 points on the night but only three after the first half. Francillon, in comparison, scored three in the first half and seven in the second, with all seven coming in the fourth quarter.
“We try to coach the girls to be a very unselfish team,” Bosley said of his Rams. “The whole coaching staff has a daughter on the team, but every coach and every player wants to find the open pass. As long as we’re scoring, we don’t care who is getting it done.”
Kamrin Weimer also upped her game in the second half, tallying six of her nine points over the final 16 minutes.
“That was the difference between the two teams,” added Broadwater. “When we took one thing away from them, someone else stepped up. When they took Sarah Raines away from us, we didn’t have anyone else step up.”
During the third quarter, Mountain Ridge trailed by as many as six on two occasions and got as close as 29-27 on two points from Torey Weimer.
Francillon started the fourth with four straight points to stretch Southern’s lead to 37-27 before Broadwater sank her second three to pull the Miners (7-1, 2-1 AMAC) back to within seven. That was as close as the Miners would get. Broadwater finished with 10 points.
The Rams will travel east on Saturday to visit Allegany while Mountain Ridge hopes to rebound at Boonsboro, also on Saturday.
Chris Appel is a sportswriter for the Times-News. Contact him at email@example.com.