G’boro split season series, prepare for playoff

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 8, 2006

After Friday night’s disappointing home loss to Demopolis, you could have forgiven the Greensboro Lady Raiders for suffering a letdown the next day on the road against Greene County.

As it turns out, there was no forgiveness needed. The Lady Raiders blitzed Greene County 51-23 behind Kara Johnson’s 14 points to head into the 4A Area 6 tournament with their momentum restored and the Demopolis loss behind them.

“They reacted well,” head coach Frances Dunn said of her team’s performance Saturday. “They knew they hadn’t done their best against Demopolis. We did not execute. It should have at least been closer … We’re going to do better than that.”

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At several points this season, the Lady Raiders already have. In addition to their two wins over Demopolis (in four tries), Greensboro has defeated 2A No. 2 R.C. Hatch, won the Hale County tournament, gone undefeated against a dangerous Sunshine team, and become co-champions and top seed for the Area 6 tournament.

But the Greensboro girls also suffered one damaging upset, a road loss to Bibb County that resulted in the two teams tying for the area’s regular season title and flipping a coin for the right to host the area tournament. Much to Dunn’s delight, Greensboro won the flip. The Lady Raiders will open up tournament play at home Thursday night against Dallas County.

“Winning the toss was a relief,” Dunn says. “It’s always been tough for us winning up there. Even last year, we had to really fight to win that game.”

If the loss to Bibb did accomplish anything, it has helped the Lady Raiders concentrate on the task at hand of winning the area title–and, hopefully, defeating the Lady Choctaws along the way.

“After that loss,” Dunn says, “some of the players told me ‘We’ll do better next time. We know where we made our mistakes and we’ll fix them.’ They’re very focused. They’re excited about playing Bibb County.”

For the Lady Raiders to exact their revenge, they will rely on their usual balanced offense, in which any of the top six players in the Lady Raider rotation–forwards Brittney Skipper, and Shandrille Tabb, guards Vanessa Rhodes, Sabrina Hurns, Jacques Winn, and Johnson–are capable of finishing in double-digits. In the win against Hatch, four Lady Raiders finished with either 11 or 12 points.

This was one problem against Demopolis Friday: only Skipper finished in double figures, scoring 10 points. (She was followed by Winn with 9, Johnson with 6, Hurns with 4, and Rhodes with 1.) Dunn says that while she’s happy with the overall way Greensboro is playing, there’s still some things to improve on as the Lady Raiders enter the playoffs.

“We’re turning the ball over a little too much, and we could be getting back on defense a little quicker,” she says. “But we’re playing well.”

Greensboro might not even have to play well to win Thursday, as they defeated Dallas County in both regular season meetings by 60 points or more. But Dunn still wants to see the Lady Raiders at the top of their game.

“The important thing is to execute,” she says. “We know we can win, but we should still execute our offense and do it well. Hopefully, when we play a more competitive team we won’t have any problems with adjustment.”

Assuming they don’t, and finish off both Bibb and a lightly regarded sub-regional opponent (in last season’s sub-regionals, a less experienced Greensboro team flattened Chelsea 52-31), the Lady Raiders will return to Mobile. If they do, Dunn says, look out.

“We’re very confident about the area playoffs and the sub-regionals,” she says, “and we’re excited about the chance to go to Mobile. They know what they have to do to get there and win there. We’re much better prepared this year than last year.”