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Caged Cougars

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Union County junior Taylor Pinkerton (12) breaks pastSouth Decatur’s Lana Bell, Tuesday night inside the Robert E. Stevens gymnasium in Liberty. Pinkerton and the Lady Patriots won the game 56-31.
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Union County senior Tara Williams drives to the basket in UC’s home contest againstSouth Decatur on Tuesday night. Williams and the Lady Patriots improved to 2-0 on the season, following a victory over the Lady Cougars.
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Union County junior Brooklyn Wilson (14) threads the needle, driving to the basket between a pair ofSouth Decatur players inside the Roy E. Stevens gymnasium on Tuesday evening. Wilson and the Lady Patriots eased to a 56-31 victory over the Lady Cougars.

By GRADY TATE - gtate@newsexaminer.com

LIBERTY — The Union County High School girls basketball team swung wide the doors to Roy E. Stevens gymnasium for the first time in the 2018-19 season on Tuesday, hosting South Decatur.

After experiencing the defense applied by their opponent, however, the Lady Cougars most likely returned home feeling anything but welcome during their time inside the UC gym.

Through two games played on the evening (junior varsity and varsity), South Decatur wound up guilty of turning the ball over 78 times, on the way to a pair of lopsided losses.

“Any win is a good win, especially one at home,” coach Scott Gray said, following a 56-31 victory in the varsity tilt. “This gets us started 2-0 on the season, so we’re pleased to have that.”

In that contest, the Lady Patriots forced South Decatur into 27 turnovers, limiting the Cougars to single-digit scoring in the first three quarters, allowing them to breeze to a 45-16 lead, heading into the final stanza.

In spite of the large lead through the first three quarters, and the eventual 25-point spread by game’s end, Gray was able to point to several mistakes by his own charges throughout.

“Honestly, I didn’t think that we were focused from the start of the game tonight,” he said. “We got on them at halftime a little bit, because our focus and taking care of the detailed stuff wasn’t where I wanted it to be.”

Turnovers on the UC end of the court was one of those issues, he said.

“We’re not very happy with our ball-handling right now,” he added. “We had 16 turnovers in our first game, then 20 of them tonight. That’s an average of 18 through our first two games. We have five guards on this team, girls that can handle to ball pretty well, so that is far too many turnovers for this group. 

“Part of that is that we’re trying to play a little faster, but we still need to clean some of those things up if we’re going to find real success throughout the season.”

The Patriots led 13-7 after one quarter, and 28-13 at halftime. Following his halftime address to them, Gray’s charges hit the court prepared, scoring 10 straight points, part of a 17-3 run, giving the home team the 29-point lead heading into the game’s final eight minutes.

“Defensively, I am really pleased as to where this team is right now,” Gray said.

Pitching in with a big assist to the defensive game was a stellar effort by his team on the boards, the UC mentor added.

“South Decatur has always been known as a good rebounding team, particularly on the offensive end,” he said. “They were averaging 14 or 15 per game coming in.

“In the first half, we gave up five and I was not very happy about that. In the second half, I’m not sure we gave up even one. The girls did a much better job on the second half taking care of the boards.”

Leading that charge was Madison Gray, the 5-11 sophomore grabbing a game-high 10 caroms throughout the game. As a team, the Patriots earned a 37-26 rebounding edge. 

“I thought that both Madison and Fayth (Hill) did a really nice job rebounding for us tonight,” coach Gray said.

Madison Gray was also tops in the scoring column, pouring in 20 tallies to point the Pats toward victory. Hill and Zoe Murphy both added eight for the winners.

For South Decatur, Annie Gant led the way with eight points, followed by Madison Owens with seven.

In the junior varsity game, the Union County reserves forced 51 turnovers on the way to a 56-14 rout.

Tori Russell and Sophia Knock led a balanced scoring effort, both with 11 points, to carry UC to the win. Jordyn Tipton added nine points, and the trio of Kaleah Louden, Faith Richardson and Lauren Alldredge checked in with seven each.

“We’ve got to continue to get better,” Gray said at the end of the evening. “Now, this is only the second game of the season, so we’re going to work on things, and I know that these girls are going to get better.

“The next three games are big for us. We play two 3A schools (Batesville, Franklin County) and a conference school (Northeastern) in between those two, so the competition is really going to pick up.”



(at Union County High School)

South Decatur 7 13 16 31

Union County 13 28 45 56

South Decatur (0-3) — Annie Gant 3-7 2-4 8, Lana Bell 1-5 2-2 4, Hannah Ballard 2-7 0-0 5, Sierra Lang 1-9 3-5 5, Madison Owens 3-11 0-0 7, Erynn Dyer 1-6 0-4 2, Megan Manlief 0-2 0-0 0, Tori Storm 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS 11-47 7-15 31.

Union County (2-0) — Genny Antrim 0-0 0-0 0, Taylor Pinkerton 2-8 0-0 4, Tara Williams 1-9 0-0 3, Fayth Hill 4-8 0-0 8, Madison Gray 9-15 2-3 20, Brooklyn Wilson 2-7 0-0 4, Haylee Richards 2-4 0-0 4, Zoe Murphy 2-3 4-6 8, Jordyn Tipton 0-0 0-0 0, Tori Russell 0-0 0-0 0, Sophia Knock 2-3 1-2 5. TOTALS 24-56 7-11 56.

3-pointers — South Decatur 2-12 (Owens 1-2, Ballard 1-4, Bell 0-1, Gant 0-2, Dyer 0-3), Union County 1-11 (Williams 1-4, Gray 0-1, Wilson 0-2, Pinkerton 0-4). Rebounds — South Decatur 26, Union County 37. Turnovers — South Decatur 27, Union County 20. Total fouls — South Decatur 13 (Bell 3, Owens 3, Manlief 3, Ballard 2, Long, Storm), Union County 12 (Murphy 3, Pinkerton 2, Wilson 2, Richards 2, Antrim, Williams, Hill).


Lady Patriots 56, Lady Cougars 14

South Decatur 2 2 6 14

Union County 17 23 34 56

South Decatur — Alicia Sporleder 1 2-2 4, Megan Vanaman 1 2-2 5, Allison Boilanger 0 1-3 1, Victoria Storm 0 0-0 0, Kirsten Meece 0 0-1 0, Allyson Rivera 0 2-4 2, Erynn Dyer 1 0-0 2, Hailey Smith 0 0-0 0, Megan Manlief 0 0-0 0, Brianna Browder 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 3 7-12 14.

Union County — Kaleah Louden 3 1-3 7, Tori Russell 5 1-2 11, Faith Richardson 3 1-2 7, Jordyn Tipton 4 1-3 9, Maddie Hoke 2 0-0 4, Leea Persinger 0 0-0 0, Lauren Alldredge 3 1-6 7, Sophia Knock 5 1-6 11. TOTALS 25 6-22 56.

3-pointers — South Decatur 1 (Vanaman 1). Turnovers — South Decatur 51, Union County 29. Total fouls — South Decatur 23 (Vanaman 4, Meece 4, Dyer 4, Browder 3, Boilanger 2, Storm 2, Rivera 2, Smith, Manlief), Union County 18 (Russell 4, Louden 3, Richardson 3, Tipton 2, Hoke 2, Knock 2, Persinger, Alldredge).

Union County senior Tara Williams drives to the basket in UC’s home contest against South Decatur on Tuesday night. Williams and the Lady Patriots improved to 2-0 on the season, following a victory over the Lady Cougars.

GRADY TATE / News-Examiner