RACELAND Mark Collier came out of the postgame locker room at Raceland on Saturday afternoon with a balloon bearing the crying-laughing emoji affixed to his gym bag, courtesy of one of his Bath County players, to commemorate his 35th trip around the sun.
That didn’t exactly match the birthday boy’s expression to begin the second half.
Collier burned a timeout seven seconds into the third quarter, even with the Lady Cats up 41-16 on Rose Hill Christian in the 16th Region All “A” Classic quarterfinals.
“I was a little disappointed how we came out in the second half,” Collier said. “I called a quick timeout, because we started reverting back to little things, and that wasn’t to show anybody up. That was just to make a point, like, hey, especially in district play, if you have a team on the ropes, you gotta go. You got to knock them out, per se, to get it there.”
The youthful Lady Cats heeded the message, beginning the second half on a 10-0 run to earn the running-clock margin in a 62-36 victory.
Eighth-grader Ashtyn Barrett scored a game-high 17 points and freshman Kassidy Thomas pitched in 16 for Bath County (5-12), which features only one player higher than ninth grade.
That would be senior Morgan McNabb, who made three 3-pointers in the first quarter. Two of them occurred during the Lady Cats’ 17-0 run to gain separation from a 5-4 lead a little over a minute and a half into the game.
“She’s had to be the mother, team grandmother, the team great-grandmother,” Collier cracked of McNabb. “She’s embraced that role. Our younger ladies really appreciate what she does for us, and she’s picked up the scoring load for us this year, which she hasn’t had to do in years past. But I couldn’t be more proud of her leadership, to say the least.”
Bellamee Sparks dropped in a game-high 22 points for the Lady Royals (7-6). She scored 15 of them in the second half as Rose Hill applied backcourt defensive pressure deep into the game.
The Lady Royals forced 12 Bath County turnovers in the second half and capitalized by outscoring the Lady Cats 17-4 in the fourth quarter, closing on a strong note.
“That’s what I was after,” Rose Hill coach Kevin Nibert said. “I was after giving something positive to go into the locker room going home, and something we can build off.”
It was far too late to affect the final outcome, though. Rose Hill committed 16 first-half giveaways, and Bath County connected on 16 of its 27 first-half shots (59.3%). The Lady Cats made 9 of 19 3-pointers (47.4%) for the game.
“Some of the times, we were on them (defensively),” Nibert said. “You have games like that when you play somebody that just shoots lights-out. That’s where they beat us, is from the 3. We’ll work on that, getting out on the 3s.”
Rose Hill remains without a trip to the All “A” region semifinals since 2007 and hasn’t beaten a 16th Region opponent since 2010. The Lady Royals won’t compete in the postseason, but they still have goals for this year, Nibert said: posting a winning record and keeping the loss column in single digits.
Nine Lady Cats scored. Thomas’s baseline jumper to conclude third-quarter scoring provided the widest margin at 58-19.
“I just couldn’t be more proud of our girls,” Collier said. “They could hang their head, especially being young, and expect to lose, but we have a motto, #ExpectMore.
“They’re giving me everything they have, and there’s a really, really bright future for Bath County.”
The Lady Cats advance to Monday’s All “A” region semifinal against West Carter.
ROSE HILL 9 7 3 17 — 36
BATH CO. 30 11 17 4 — 62
Rose Hill Christian (36) — VanKeuren 2, B. Sparks 22, D. Sparks 6, Trimble 2, Hensley 2, McFarlin 2, Riffe, Barido. 3-Pt. FG: (B. Sparks 3). FT: 5-10. Fouls:11.
Bath County (62) — Day 6, Vice 6, Barrett 17, McNabb 9, Thomas 16, Davis 2, Purvis 2, Roland 2, Norris 2, Crouch. 3-Pt. FG: 9 (Thomas 4, McNabb 3, Barrett 2). FT: 3-4. Fouls: 15.
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