CCS girls advance to final

It’s hard to believe any team shooting below 30 percent on average has a shot at a state championship, but such is the case for the Cornerstone Christian School girls basketball team, which downed Wilcox Academy, 28-26, Wednesday.

Cornerstone (23-5) posted one of its best shooting performances of the season, connecting on 38.7 percent of its shots, to win the AISA Class 1A semifinal at Huntingdon College and set up a state final showdown with Sparta at noon Thursday.

The Lady Chargers took a 12-7 lead after the first quarter but were held to just three points in the second, as Wilcox score seven unanswered points to tie the game, 14-14, before Chelsey Dunnaway gave CCS a slim lead at the half, 15-14, with a late free throw. Wilcox took the lead coming out of half, but sophomore Kailey Goodwin pulled the Chargers even with a 3-pointer midway through the third, 20-20.

“You had the feeling that they were trying to pull away from us, and that three just rejuvenate our confidence,” CCS head coach Keith Youngblood said.

From there, freshman Destiny Dillard took control for the Chargers, hitting three consecutive shots from around the free throw line for six points in the final minutes of the quarter to give CCS a 26-22 lead entering the fourth. She finished with 10 points.

” She really had not been shooting well the last two games,” Youngblood said. “We just told her, ‘You can score, and we’ve got to have you in the middle,’ … It was a key moment in the game for her to put three down.”

CCS was shooting 50 percent for the game until the final quarter, as the Chargers were 1-of-9 from the floor. Dunnaway scored the lone fourth-quarter basket and finished with nine points and a game-high eight rebounds.

Wilcox (22-7) rallied late, pulling within two points with 18 seconds left on a basket by Rachel Bell. Brittany Calma missed three free throws that could have put the game away, but Wilcox was unable to come back, missing a last second attempt to seal Cornerstone’s 18th straight victory.

“It intensified there late. It hurt us a little bit when we weren’t able to put the game away, but the defense was just amazing. That’s really what keeps us in our games is our girls play phenomenal defense,” Youngblood said.

He added that the Lady Chargers will have to break down Sparta’s press and slow the game down on Thursday. This is Cornerstone’s first trip to a girls basketball championship.

“We’re happy to be here, but I don’t think the girls are satisfied,” Youngblood said. “I think tomorrow they’re going to lay it on the line.”