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Central girls fall to unbeaten Sparkman


Sparkman’s Alexis Jennings, right, pulls down a rebound against Hillcrest’s Ariel Minor in the first half Wednesday. The Lady Patriots hung tough in the early going but finished making just 10 of 46 shots against Sparkman, which is 32-0. (Photo by Robert Sutton | Tuscaloosa News)


HANCEVILLE | Making it to the regional tournament is an honor for any basketball team, and the Hillcrest Lady Patriots are no exception.

They made the Class 6A Northwest Regional tournament in Hanceville, but their game Wednesday was against 32-0 Sparkman, a perennial powerhouse.

The Lady Senators proved they were a legitimate title contender by downing the Lady Patriots 55-25.

Sparkman had a much better afternoon shooting, making 25 of 54 field goal attempts to Hillcrest’s 10 of 46, and the Lady Senators pulled down 10 more rebounds thanks to a definitive height advantage.

"This is one of the youngest teams we’ve had in years," Hillcrest (22-11) coach Jerome Elliott said. "They played hard today, but in the end we didn’t have enough in the tank."

There were six lead changes early, and Sparkman led only 10-8 after the first quarter.

The Lady Senators began pulling away in the second, outscoring Hillcrest 14-8 in the eight minutes before halftime.

That put Sparkman up 24-16 at intermission, and the only reason that the Lady Patriots were still in the game was the stellar play by senior Ambrica Johnson.

Johnson had 14 of the Lady Patriots’ 16 points in the first half, 12 on 3-pointers.

"She’s been a joy to coach," Elliott said. "She came in and we developed her, she did what we asked her to do and we’re going to miss her."

It was in the third quarter that Sparkman put the game away. The Lady Senators outscored the Lady Patriots 22-9 in the period after scoring the last eight points of the second quarter.

Sparkman’s defense prevented Johnson from scoring a point in the second half.

"When you only have five players you can play comfortably, the depth factor definitely becomes an issue," Elliott said. "It took a toll on us because our starters played so many minutes. We became leg-weary in the second half, and when you become leg-weary you can become head-weary too."

Johnson’s 14 points led Hillcrest. She added five rebounds.

Also scoring for the Lady Patriots were Charity Brown (five points), Kyiesha Mills (four) and Ariel Minor (two).