The Franklin-Simpson Lady Cats lost a seven point lead late down the stretch and that cost them a win in their season home opener, losing, 59-56, to the Hart County Lady Raiders, of the 5th Region.

“With this team, we have to learn how to win,” Lady Cats head coach Ashley Taylor said. “We are not used to coming away with wins in those close ball games. Tonight, we will learn from this and take a giant step forward.”

“Hats off to Coach (Ashley) Taylor and the Lady Cats,” Lady Raiders head coach John Burd said. “(Alera) Barbee and Kate (Norwood) are special players. We knew how good Norwood was but Barbee impressed us more tonight than what she did in last year’s game against us.The team played with great sportsmanship and we were very fortunate to come away with a win.”

Senior Alera Barbee scored the first points of the season for Franklin-Simpson. Sophomores Ashanti Johnson and Le Le Partinger added two points each but Hart County rolled off eight straight points, 12 for the quarter, with junior Haley Sturgeon scoring six points for a 12-8 lead for the Lady Raiders at the end of the 1st.

Senior Kate Norwood drained the first two 3-pointers of the season for the Lady Cats as she scored 12 points. But Sturgeon’s 11 points with junior Kiley Adcock’s five points led Hart County to a double digit lead as they led 31-24 at halftime.

Taylor lit a fire into the Lady Cats at halftime as they responded with a barrage of 3-pointers with two from Norwood and one each from Barbee and sophomore Hadley Turner, whose 3-pointer gave them their first lead of the game since Barbee’s opening basket in the 1st Quarter. Four lead changes occurred as Sturgeon and freshman Dee Bradley’s 3-pointers helped Hart County to a 43-42 lead at then end of three.

Freshman Katleyn McAloster’s 3-pointer and Barbee’s traditional three-point play helped Franklin-Simpson to regain their lead and extended it to seven, 54-47 with 1:46 left in the game. Hart County scored eight unanswered points with Sturgeon’s basket off an inbounds steal giving them a 55-54 lead for the seventh lead change of the game. After Bradley’s basket, Le Le Partinger’s two free throws cut the Lady Cats deficit down to one but the Lady Raiders’ defense and free throws down the stretch led them to a 59-56 victory.

“I gave a nice, spirited halftime speech and the girls responded,” Taylor said. “I talked to them about reverting back to our old ways and that is not us. If we are going to lose, I wanna play our style. We shot the ball well but that started on the defensive end and that gout our crowd into the game as well. I told the girls that you have people behind you and that is because of the defense. Our offense will take care of itself at the end of the day.”

Kate Norwood led the Lady Cats with 18 points with Alera Barbee adding 15 points. Haley Sturgeon led all scorers with a game high of 29 points for the Lady Raiders with Kiley Adcock adding 13 points and Dee Bradley contributing 12 points.

“Without scrimmages, we had some signs where we played well and signs where we didn’t. Execution and pressure was good at times. For most of them, this is the girls’ third year under this system so they look like they are ready to play this season,” Burd said. “I have three good guards that can attack the basket and if anybody wants to pressure us, we’re going to the rack. Haley (Sturgeon) and others did that tonight and I think we shot 70% from the line and that is impressive to do that on the road against a Region 4 team.”

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