DOBSON — The rubber match for the Surry Central Lady Golden Eagles and the West Stokes Lady Wildcats had so much than bragging rights at stake.
The Eagles and Cats met Monday for the third time this season, now with a shot at the Western Piedmont 2A Athletic Conference Championship on the line.
West won the first match-up in January, 58-56, while Central defended its home court with a 49-47 overtime victory. Now, just three days later, the two would settle the score.
If you guessed that the third meeting between the teams would also be decided by a two-point margin, you would be correct. Surry Central converted on key free throws late in the game to come away with a 43-41 win.
Both Central and West emphasized team basketball in the game. Seven players from each team scored, with only two players reaching double-digits.
West Stokes’ Emma Santoro got things started with a layup just 60 seconds into the game. Taylor Coe evened the score at 2-2 with a bucket in the paint as well.
The Eagles picked up three team fouls in a 10-second span from 6:05-5:55, but wouldn’t commit their seventh team foul until early in the second quarter.
Taylor Cochran led the Golden Eagles with five points in the first quarter, with Coe and Beasley each adding two points.
A fast break layup from West’s Sydney Cromer tied the game at 9-9 at the end of the opening quarter.
The Wildcats scored the final four points of the first period and then proceeded to score the first four of the second period.
Joley Cabe halted the Cats’ run with a 3-pointer at 6:44. Cabe’s triple sparked a 10-0 run by Surry Central to go up 19-13.
Cabe scored eight of her 10 points in the second quarter. Hannah Beasley, who finished with nine points in the game, had five points in the period.
Eugenia Marcelli converted on back-to-back free throws coming out of a Wildcat timeout in hopes of stopping the Eagles’ momentum. It would be to little success, however, as Central outscored West Stokes 9-6 in the final 3:02 of the half to hold a 28-17 lead at the break.
Turnovers doomed both teams early in the second half. Hannah Spainhour finally broke the ice with a jumpshot at 5:23 to bring the Wildcats within single digits.
The Eagles had a number of long possessions that either resulted in a turnover or a missed shot rebounded by the Wildcats. West Stokes had four blocks as a team in the third quarter.
Central’s defense helped make up for the offense, holding the Cats to just nine points in the quarter. The main issue for Surry Central was that they failed to score at all in the third.
Two points from Torie Allen wrapped up the 9-0 run for the Wildcats and brought the team within two at the quarter’s end.
Despite a scoreless third period, the Eagles held on to a slim lead. Brooke Snow scored the Eagles’ first basket of the second half with a put-back at 7:38. Snow came to play in the fourth quarter, scoring all three of the Eagles’ field goals in the fourth.
Back-to-back buckets by West tied the game at 30. This was the first time the Wildcats weren’t trailing since 13-13.
Another two points from Snow and a free throw from Carlie Via put the Eagles up 33-30. This led to a timeout by West coach Dillon Bobbitt with 3:21 remaining.
The Wildcats took their first lead of the second half following four made free throws. This would be the end of the Lady Cats’ luck, however.
Central regained the lead 11 seconds after losing it with another jumper from Snow. When West Stokes went to inbound the ball, a player stepped on the line and gave the ball back to Central with just over two minutes to play.
Players practice all year for situations like Monday’s game. It all came down to free throws.
In the final 2:22 of the game, Surry Central made 8-of-10 free throws and never surrendered the lead. Savanah Atkins shot a perfect 4-for-4 in that span.
West’s Taylor Cunningham made a 3-pointer with just three seconds on the clock to bring the game to a two-point margin yet again. This time, it was Surry Central that emerged victorious, 43-41.
Cabe and Snow led the Eagles with 10 points each, followed by Beasley with nine and Atkins with six.
Cunningham and Allen each had eight points for the Wildcats, followed by Marcelli and Spainhour with six apiece.
The Golden Eagles (16-9) will host the top-seeded Atkins Camels on Wednesday at 6:30 in the semifinals of the WPAC Tournament.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith