Anna Grey Walters Special to The Herald Independent
December 24, 2013
WINNSBORO — The Lady Eagles of Richard Winn Academy took home the championship trophy this past weekend after racking up back-to-back wins while hosting the annual Christmas Classic Tournament.
The Lady Eagles started things off against the Lady Falcons of Ben Lippen in the opening round on Friday.
Richard Winn showed up strong in the first half and then even stronger in the second. RWA won with a final score of 57-19. Jaycie Johnson scored 17 points for the Lady Eagles, Carson Justice had 13, and Alyssa Atkerson contributed nine. The win pushed RWA into the tournament championship.
The championship game was a classic match between the reigning state champions of SCISA AA and the number one ranked team in South Carolina High School League’s class AA, the undefeated Lady Griffins of Fairfield Central.
Thanks to clutch outside shooting, FCHS led at the half 21-19. RWA regrouped at halftime and RWA head coach Jason Haltiwanger stressed the importance of team defense and intensity in the second half as keys to limit the Griffins’ touches.
FCHS kept up its pressure on defense and relied on the outside shot in the second half. These two elite teams went back and forth with multiple lead changes but turnovers and inconsistent outside shooting eventually were the difference.
Jada Martin was unselfish with the ball as the Griffins ran their offense but the game plan resulted in fewer shot opportunities for the Griffins star player. By contrast, Richard Winn’s multiple offensive sets and ball movement led to a more balanced attack with the inside and outside game clicking.
Jaycie Johnson and Jessie Stidham dominated in the paint, securing offensive rebounds, put backs and high percentage shots. The pair also made life tough for FCHS guards and post players, challenging interior shots and forcing FCHS to rely on jump shooting.
“I had seen them play before and knew they had good shooters. We just had to stay within the system and rotate out to contest their shots like coach said,” RWA guard Carson Justice said. “Our big girls were the difference maker in this one and it feels great to get this quality win at home.”
Ultimately, RWA took better care of the ball and had fewer mistakes, which gave them more possessions and opportunities to pull away from the Griffins in the end. It appeared in the fourth quarter that the fast pace might have slowed an Eagles team which had some depth concerns, but players appeared more energized and focused after a few Haltiwanger timeouts and played hard until the final possession.
With the final buzzer sound, Richard Winn came out ahead by just six points, winning 43-36. Justice led the Lady Eagles’ scoring with 12 points. Jessie Stidham added 11 to the scoreboard, and freshman Bailey Taylor scored six.
When asked what really helped them win, Haltiwanger said a good locker room vibe before the game, their game plan, and true team work.
“We’re trying to win situations, not games,” he stated “There were no individuals in this game. We worked as a Richard Winn unit.”
All-tournament players for the Lady Eagles were Jaycie Johnson and Alyssa Atkerson and Jada Martin for Fairfield Central.