KATHLEEN -- Modesty forced Allisha Gray to downplay the importance of the foul trouble that forced her to the bench midway through the second quarter of the championship game of the second annual Veterans Christmas tournament.
“My team picked me up,” she said. “You wouldn’t even notice I wasn’t on the court.”
Gray scored 15 of her game-high 33 points in the third quarter and Washington County knocked off tournament host Veterans 65-40 on Thursday. Gray, who averaged 33.4 points during three tournament games, earned MVP honors.
“We played three good teams that really got after it,” Washington County head coach Sug Parker said. “Three games in three days -- winning by 20 or so each game -- not bad at all.”
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Veterans (4-7) accepted the challenge presented by the defending GHSA Class AAA champions. In what head coach Nicole Miranda called the second-year program’s biggest game, the Lady Warhawks hung tough throughout the first half. In fact, Veterans sprinted to an 8-2 lead in the game’s first three minutes.
“Our goal was to fight and compete,” Miranda said. “I’m very pleased with our effort.”
Washington County (10-0) ripped off a 17-0 run to take a 19-8 lead midway through the second quarter, but Veterans refused to wilt. When Gray left the game with her third foul at the 3:59 mark of the second quarter, the Lady Warhawks closed the half on an 11-7 run. At halftime, Washington County led 26-19.
“I had to play smart,” Gray said of her halftime meditation. “Still keep my aggression but smart.”
Gray dialed down the defensive intensity a notch, but retained a physical presence on offense. In the second half, she converted four post-up opportunities into baskets. She also hit three three-point shots in the third quarter.
“Any time I have a mismatch, I go for the post,” Gray said. “That’s why I practice my post moves so much because you never know when you’ll have a mismatch.”
Gray’s work in the post created opportunities for her teammates, as well. Shonteria Kitchens scored six of her 10 points in the third quarter as Washington County built a 47-25 lead.
All-tournament selection Kala Brown and Sheirkerriea Nelson each scored nine points for the Lady Hawks.
Veterans’ top scorers were Mikia Robinson and Jalyn Slaughter with 17 and nine points, respectively. Both players earned all-tournament honors.