By Jonathan Deal
EAST LIMESTONE —
For the first time as East Limestone’s head coach, Josh Davis was at a loss for words. The first year head coach had just defeated rival Athens 49-45 in a sub-region playoff to qualify for the team’s first region appearance since 1998.
“I’m very rarely at a loss for words in the locker room, but tonight I was at a loss for words,” said Davis. “Those girls deserve it. They worked hard all year. They play as a team. You take one player away and the next steps up.”
Athens led 44-40 with three minutes to play before East Limestone finished the game on a 9-1 run.
Brennan Crabtree tied the game with a 3-point play with two and a half minutes to play, then Jhay Fletcher gave East the lead one final time 30 seconds later. Crabtree hit a jump shot on the next posses as part of an 8-0 run in final two minutes.
“They had a good game plan to stop our two main scorers, but we had others step up at the end for us,” said Davis. “Jhay Johnson came out a little slow, but there at the end, it seemed like she really stepped up.”
East Limestone’s leading scorers – Brennan Crabtree and Rachael Diamond – were held to a combined 14 points. Crabtree scored 13 of those while Jhay Fletcher also added 13 points.
All nine players for East Limestone recorded a point.
Kaitlyn Wise led Athens with nine points while Tariona Adams and De’ja Williams each added eight.
Athens trailed 26-21 at halftime, but used a full court press most of the second half to force numerous turnovers. After Athens took a 29-28 lead midway through the third quarter, there were half a dozen lead changes over the next eight minutes until East Limestone’s final run to seal the win.
With the win, East Limestone advances to the Northwest Regional Tournament in Hanceville. It is the girls team’s first appearance in 16 years.
“That was a goal for us,” Davis said about making it to Wallace State. “This is a great team. My expectations were high, along with theirs. We hope to go a little farther.”
East Limestone will play at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19 in Hanceville.