Montevallo girls overcome sluggish start, beat Shelby County

Published 10:51 am Thursday, February 4, 2016

Lauryn Lilly loses control of the ball momentarily as she drives to the lane against Shelby County’s Sam Slaughter on Feb. 3. (Reporter Photo / Baker Ellis)

Lauryn Lilly loses control of the ball momentarily as she drives to the lane against Shelby County’s Sam Slaughter on Feb. 3. (Reporter Photo / Baker Ellis)

By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor

COLUMBIANA – The Montevallo Lady Bulldogs sport one of the more potent offenses across the county and state in 4A. Lauryn Lilly, Alasha Reed and Takila Hill are some of the faces that make the fast-paced, high-octane offense run and have helped push them to another 20-plus win season. However, on Feb. 3 in a game against in-county opponent Shelby County, Montevallo simply couldn’t get it going early. The Lady Bulldogs eventually figured things out and escaped Columbiana with a 52-44 win, but it was certainly not pretty early.

Both teams got off to a sluggish start early, but Montevallo especially struggled early as the Lady Bulldogs managed just four first quarter points. Shelby County fared better, but not by much, as the Lady Wildcats took a 7-4 lead into the second quarter.

“I think we just weren’t focused and weren’t ready to play,” Montevallo head coach Tena Niven said after the game. “Sometimes when we play teams that we’ve beaten or can beat, we tend to not be focused and get off as aggressive as we need to be and it puts us in a bind. It was good for us tonight because we’ve been preaching it, preaching it, preaching it but haven’t had a team like Shelby County that was good to make us pay for it for a little while.”

There was a slight uptick in offensive production in the second, but a bucket at the buzzer from Hannah Cotton put the Lady Wildcats up 19-12 at the half. Montevallo was 2-11 from the free throw line in the first half as well.

Marjorie Head hit a three on Shelby County’s first possession of the second half to put the Lady Wildcats up 22-13, which is when the Lady Bulldogs flipped some internal switch. Montevallo began pushing the pace in transition on offense, which led to a number of easy buckets, and clamped down defensively. Shelby County continued to work and grind, matching Montevallo when it could on offense, and held a 28-23 lead late in the third before a quick 10-4 run gave the Lady Bulldogs a one-point, 33-32 lead heading into the fourth.

Head took the ball to the rim on the first play of the fourth quarter to give Shelby County a momentary 34-33 lead before Lilly promptly hit a three on the other end, which gave Montevallo the lead for good. The Lady Bulldogs’ speed and athleticism began to assert itself, and a three from Emri Hannah late in the fourth put Montevallo up six, which proved to be too much for Shelby County to overcome, as the home team fell 52-44 on senior night.

Lilly had 17 for Montevallo, 14 of which came after halftime, to lead all scorers, while Head had 16 to lead Shelby County.