Contributed by Rob Grubbs (@RCGJr226070)
Photo by CD Photography (@FayetteSports)
Fayette County 58, Sandy Creek 32
FAYETTEVILLE, Georgia – Two teams that had impressive finishes to last years’ season faced off in an early inter-county rivalry game. The Sandy Creek Lady Patriots made it to the Class AAAA Final 4 where they would lose to eventual champion Columbus. Graduation was not kind to Coach Janie Hodges and the Lady Patriots as they lost their dynamic backcourt duo of ShanQuaylia Stanton and Kasey Toles from last year’s team. This year’s team will be focused more on a strong inside game from their star post players, Daija Powell and Paris Thompson.
Fayette County Coach John Strickland also lost a key player from last year’s Class AAAAA Sweet 16 team, Darryl Langford who is at the Naval Academy now, but brought back a deep roster with strong senior leadership. In contrast to Sandy Creek, the Lady Tigers bring experience to the backcourt but are young inside. The matchup was a classic opportunity for both teams to see where they are and what needs work. Since this is was a non-region game, one team was going to win while the other was going to learn more about themselves.
Sandy Creek jumped out to an 8-5 first quarter lead with all points scored by Powell. The new guard tandem of Nina Lum and Jania Hodges were constantly feeding the ball down low, and Powell was moving in the paint with ease. As the game progressed, the Lady Tigers continued to rotate players, making wholesale changes at almost every break. Guards Maegan Brantley, Sidney Sims and Trinity Brown were playing fast and they slowly turned the defensive pressure up which wore down the Patriots. After taking a 22-18 lead into the half, the Lady Tigers dominated the third quarter with their full court press and depth to pull away.
Afterwards, Strickland was proud his post players who were getting the first significant playing time of their career. “Naomi Franco and Celine Akande played outstanding against their inside players, who are really good. We know what we have in our frontcourt, we know what to expect from Maegan, Trinity and Sidney, but I was really encouraged with how Naomi and Celine played. If they continue to progress, that will open up more of our offense.”
Strickland also wanted to brag more on his ladies latest academic feats than the game, he said, “This has the potential to be a special group.”
In the end, it was Fayette County 58-32 with Brown and Barkley leading scorers with 15 each. Franco played a solid game in the post, just missing a double-double with 9 points and 9 rebounds. Powell led the Lady Patriots with 15; look for them to improve as the season goes along and their guard play gets more comfortable and confident.
Maegan Barkley – 15 points, 3 rebounds
Trinity Brown – 15 points, 3 rebounds
Naomi Franco – 9 points, 9 rebounds
Sidney Sims – 8 points, 9 rebounds
Daija Powell – 14 points, 8 rebounds
Paris Thompson – 10 points, 3 rebounds