ROBERTA — The first 12 minutes were not kind Monday to the Crawford County Lady Eagles, who were trying to win their first region title in 34 years.
Heard County was handling Crawford County’s press and getting the Lady Eagles in foul trouble.
So during a timeout, with Crawford County losing 20-12 to a team it had beaten twice this year by more than 30 points, head coach Melinda Traylor made a change. She turned 6-foot ninth-grader Ivy Slaughter loose. And by the end of the quarter, Slaughter had scored six points, had five steals and nine rebounds and was the key player who turned an eight-point deficit into a one-point lead by the half.
From there senior Shanedra Lockett took over, scoring 15 second-half points to lead the Lady Eagles to a 51-36 win.
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“I thought we needed some life,” Traylor said. “Ivy at the front of the press, with her quickness and long arms, well it’s just difficult for the other team to pass over her. I thought she gave us the energy that we were looking for in the second and third quarter.
“We call her and Keeauria Danielly out twin towers. Both of them are just ninth-graders, but they play big roles in our success. We all knew that sooner or later Shanedra was going to get hers, and sure enough, she took over late. It just means so much to this program to finally win a region title, and hopefully, with this ninth-grade class, we can win some more.”
Heard County looked nothing like a team that had been blown out by Crawford County earlier in the year. Heard County got 10 points from La’Rice Walker in the first half and was able to get to the foul line, converting 11-of-18 while frustrating a cold-shooting Crawford County team.
But with Slaughter at the front of the press, the Lady Braves turned the ball over six straight times in the second quarter, allowing the running game of the Lady Eagles to get going. Heard County managed to keep it close through the third quarter, trailing only 36-29 after three quarters, but Lockett started the fourth quarter by scoring 13 straight points to allow Crawford County to finally open up the game.
“Once they put me at the front of the press, I thought it was my job to get us going,” Slaughter said. “The seniors have put in so much time and have never won a region, and this was my chance to help them get one. It has been our goal all year to win region, and even though we didn’t play our best game, we played well when we had to. It’s just a great feeling to be able to help this team win.”
Lockett finished with 20 points, while Slaughter added 17 to go along with 14 rebounds and seven steals.
“I felt like I needed to get going and put it away,” said Lockett, who was named the tournament’s MVP. “We have a lot of talent, and when I didn’t have a good first half, everyone picked me up. That’s the way we have been all year. It’s great to finally win the region, especially in my senior year. The crowd was unreal, and once we got the lead, there was no way we were going to let them catch us.”