Va. Intermont takes measure of Lady Buffs

Photo By Dave Boyd
Ginny White, who scored 11, handles the basketball for the Lady Buffs.

By Michelle Pope

   The Lady Cobras defended Smith-Canter Gymnasium well against the Milligan women's basketball team Thursday, striking hard in the second half to widen the gap the Lady Buffs relentlessly kept closed.
   Virginia Intermont took an early lead, giving it up only a handful of times in the first half, and running with it the second to capture a 79-65 AAC win.
   Every time the Lady Buffs' score drew within four or five points, the Lady Cobras would redouble their effort to pull away.
   Milligan racked up double the amount of free-throw points that VI accumulated in the first half, making up almost a third of their first-half score. The Milligan players seemed to grow additional arms when it came to rebounds, yanking the ball from the air on both offense and defense.
   "The first half we were getting outrebounded. We just weren't playing our game," said Virginia Intermont coach Heather Conley.
   Brandi Owens dominated the court for the Lady Cobras in the first half. She led her team in scoring with 18 points by sinking eight field goals and going 2 for 3 on foul shots, followed closely by Ida Sammons with seventeen.
   Nicky Jessen, Kacie Letterman and Joy Clark kept the Lady Buffaloes riding the Cobras' tail during the first half, sinking numerous baskets for Milligan.
   "We did some good things," said Milligan head coach Rich Aubrey. "I think they're (VI) a very good basketball team. They have very good players, and I think it's tough to come here and win. For probably 30-plus minutes, we were right in the hunt, but we just couldn't finish."
   The Lady Buffs came charging into the game in the second half, led by senior forward Jessen. The former Daniel Boone High student almost immediately sunk two shots from inside the paint, and collected three more points from two fouls. Sophomore Kari Stout followed her lead, scoring once, and then again off a pass from Ann Marie Gardner, placing the Lady Buffs in an opportune position, with a 40-42 score.
   VI's Ashley Booker had other plans. Sinking two shots, the Knoxville native kept the Lady Cobras in striking position. With the help of Dana Frazier, and Amber Salley, VI pulled ahead again, jumping six points ahead of Milligan when Jessen went to the bench with an injury. However, the determined player didn't stay for long, and was soon back in the game.
   The teams exchanged fouls, with Intermont scoring four points, and Milligan scoring five, before the girls decided to raise the score more quickly. Milligan guard Ginny White sunk an outside shot for three, bringing the Lady Buffs within two points again at 50, but Quana Fields made VI's next goal a 3-pointer as well, pulling ahead once again.
   "Obviously, the second half, we made some adjustments," Conley said. "The second half, we knew we had to take care of the rebounds, we knew we had to penetrate more on offense, and we were able to do that."
   After an inside Jessen goal, White sunk another 3-pointer for Milligan, placing the Lady Buffs close to the lead again, with a 58-61 score. Again, the VI ladies went on a scoring run, with Tara Hanson sinking the first basket in what would become a nine-point consecutive drive.
   During the Cobra domination, Jessen went down again with an injured ankle - this time for the remainder of the game. The loss seemed to take the wind out of the Lady Buffaloes, who only scored seven points for the rest of the game.
   "I felt like we showed some signs of playing better, but I feel like we looked up at some point and questioned whether we could win," said Aubrey. "I don't know if that happened when Nicky got hurt, but to me, I almost had the sense that we weren't confident that we could win the game. I think that's the way we finished - without any confidence."
   Sammons took advantage of the situation, scoring two of her six field goals in the last minutes of the game, as well as four of her five free throw points.
   Milligan's final scoring consisted solely of foul shots by Letterman, who scored five points from three fouls. Aubrey had mixed feelings about the Cobras' aggression. "That's a mixed bag. We did get to the foul line in both halves and we made them, but also, we turned the ball over, and we missed some shots because they played aggressive defense."
   Conley, however, was disappointed that her team let Milligan score so much from the Cobras' in-your-face style of playing. "I think they (Milligan) had twenty-five points from the free-throw line. We knew that we were going to have to stop the penetration. We just didn't do a good job of that. When you have to give somebody twenty-five points from the foul line, you're just lucky to win."
   With the score 76-65 in VI's favor, and only 48 seconds left on the clock, all Milligan could do was keep the Lady Cobras from making big buckets. Fields scored two points for VI from the foul line, and Sammons finished the scoring with a free throw. The Lady Cobras maintained possession until the buzzer sounded, and slithered away with the win.