By Bryan Davis
Monday night was a battle between two district winners. Some of the best girls in single-A ball took to the court against some of the best in AAA hoops, and both teams were from right here in Clay County.
The Hebron Christian Lady Eagles (22-3; 10-0) and the Oak Hill Academy Lady Raiders (19-6; 6-0) both wrapped up their respective districts this weekend, with the two teams going undefeated in league play.
On Monday night, Hebron and Oak Hill would face each other for the second time this season. The first time, Hebron took a respectable early lead, but failed to hold on as Oak Hill battled back to win it.
Monday night’s game was almost a repeat of that first December match, with Hebron jumping on top early, but with a sluggish second half offense, the Eagles allowed Oak Hill to come back for a 49-32 win.
When the game started, it looked as if nothing could go right for the Lady Raiders. Hebron’s girls were shooting at will, and Oak Hill’s shots seemed to just bounce off the rim and into the Lady Eagles’ possession.
Tori Nichols got the first two points of the evening for Hebron. That was followed by a three-pointer from Hillary Arnold.
Arnold would sink a pair of free throws, before Cathryn Moore and Beverly Blake threw in back-to-back three pointers to give the Lady Eagles a 10-1 lead.
That lone point for the Lady Raiders came off the hands of Tori Ellis, who would score three of Oak Hill’s five points in the first. Anna Ready accounted for the last two that send the Hebron girls into the second with a 15-5 lead.
Those final two points for Oak Hill in the first gave life to their offense in the second. Ellis threw in the first two shots, accounting for three points. Nichols and Arnold scored four between them to open up Hebron’s frame.
After Moore got a couple of free throws, the Lady Eagles were still up 21-12. Tapley then scored two, and Nichols got a shot herself to give Hebron a 25-12 lead with two minutes to go in the half.
Oak Hill then came to life on both sides of the ball. In the final two minutes, they would allow no more points to Hebron, while scoring seven of their own.
Maegen Ellis and Lauren Billington threw up four points to make it 25-16. Just when the Lady Eagles were trying to move the ball back into their territory, Kayla Hall stole the ball away and ran to the goal for a lay-up to make it 25-18. Ellis would finish the unanswered scoring with a free throw to make it 25-19 Hebron at the half.
The second half proved to be a disaster for the Hebron offense. The team combined to score only six points in the third quarter. Tapley’s free throw with 4:10 to go in the fourth was the Lady Eagles’ lone point in the final eight minutes of regulation.
Meanwhile, Ready threw up a pair of free throws to start the third, with Rachel Herndon sinking two behind her. Ready, Herndon, Ellis and Paige Dawkins would all combine for 22 points in the Oak Hill third.
In the final quarter of the game, Oak Hill scored eight points, but it was plenty, as they out-scored Hebron 30-7 in the last 16 minutes of the game.
For Oak Hill, Tori Ellis led the girls with 19 points. Herndon was second on the team with eight, and Ready scored six for the Lady Raiders.
Dawkins and Hall scored four each, and Billington, Shay Atkins, Maegen Ellis and Katelyn White all contributed two points each.
Hebron was led on the night by Nichols, who scored 11 points. Arnold scored 11 points as well.
Moore scored five, Blake netted three points, and Tapley scored two on the night.
For the Lady Eagles, that was their final game of the regular season, as they get set for the district tournament at Macon Central next week. They will enjoy a bye, after playing five of the last eight days. They will play Thursday night.
The Lady Raiders are heading into the district tournament with the No. 1 seed themselves. Full brackets for next week’s games will be posted as they come in.