BY ADAM GREENE
GREENEVILLE - South Greene trailed for most of the second half, but a 19-point fourth-quarter surge lifted the Lady Rebels past Shelbyville Central with a 49-43 win in the opening round of the LandAir Ladies Classic at Hal Henard Gym Wednesday.
South Greene (10-4) advances to face Oakland in round two tonight at 8:30 p.m. The Golden Eagles will play Cocke County in the consolation bracket at 10 a.m.
The Lady Rebels opened the game cold, scoring just three points in the first five minutes. Shelbyville Central (5-8) wasn't much better, but was able to take an early 6-3 lead and hold it until the final minute of the opening quarter.
"We didn't come out with much intensity as we would have like that first half," South Greene coach Stephen Gregg said. "We tried motivating them all night just to step up and play hard. It was a more physical game and our kids need those to make us better."
That physical game ended up with multiple Lady Rebels on the floor. South Greene didn't take the bait, and kept focusing on putting the ball in the basket. With one minute left in the first period, the Lady Rebels took a 9-6 lead on a layup from Peyton Williams off a steal from Ashton Wykle.
Williams needed to deliver as forward Alora Ricker has yet to return to the lineup from injury. Ricker was dressed Wednesday night, but never saw the floor. Williams took care of things in the middle, scoring 12 points and grabbing six rebounds.
"We stepped up to the challenge in the second half and played harder," Gregg said. "We've been outrebounded a lot and with Alora being out, it makes us even smaller."
It wasn't the Lady Rebels' size that enabled Shelbyville to take the lead, it was turnovers. South Greene ruined many scoring chances by trying to force an extra pass or by tossing a ball to a well-guarded player in the paint.
"It hurt us early," Gregg said. "We didn't value the basketball. We'd penetrate it deep and expect one of them to go up and shoot it and we'd pass again. It's good that they're not selfish, but they need to be more offensive minded."
It turns out South Greene's offense did just fine in the end, with four players ending up in double figures. Cheyenne Upton, did most of her damage under the rim, picked up a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Upton was a focal point of the offensive strategy entering the game as the Lady Rebels have struggled with consistency in their outside shooting.
"That was part of the gameplan," Upton said. "We're better going inside than outside because we haven't been hitting many threes this year. I'm happy that I was able to come through for our team. We didn't just rely on one person to win the game for us."
The team effort helped put Maelyn Cutshaw into double figures. Cutshaw had an off night from the field, finishing just 2-for-12 but her 8-for-9 performance at the free throw line helped the Lady Rebels pull away in the fourth quarter. Cutshaw ended the game with 12 points.
"Sometimes in a physical game, we react and not in a smart way," Cutshaw said. "As a team we've learned to play that way, but smart. We got their best player (To'Nesha Allison) in foul trouble and reversed it. We have a small team, but we're fast so our goal was to get better in transition in each game. We knew that's what would win it in the fourth quarter."
A three-pointer from Javan Wilhoit gave South Greene its first lead of the second half with seven minutes to go in the game. A layup from Williams two minutes later would give the Lady Rebels the lead for good. Wilhoit finished with 12 points.
Allison scored 12 points for the Golden Eagles and pulled in 10 rebounds. Shelbyville Central got 10 points apiece from Bree Horner and Jameka Bradon.