Second half lifts E-Gals to win

Jan. 25—HARTFORD — Kennedy Lane scored a game-high 24 points, including 16 in the second half, as the Apollo High School girls basketball team rallied from a double-digit deficit to claim a 53-46 win over Ohio County on Tuesday.

After trailing 27-18 at halftime, the E-Gals (7-15) fell behind 33-20 less than two minutes into the third quarter. Lane converted a traditional three-point play with 5:17 left in the frame to spur a 12-1 scoring run — capped off by a 3-pointer from Taraya Thompson that drew Apollo within two points with 2:32 left in the period.

Ohio County (4-15) gained separation with four consecutive free throws, but Lane again scored a conventional three-point play with 42.4 seconds left that trimmed the deficit to 38-35 heading into the final eight minutes.

Abby Sapp sank two foul shots that cut Ohio's lead to 42-41 with 5:32 left, and Lane's layup 30 seconds later pushed the E-Gals to their first lead since the first quarter. The effort was part of a 14-1 run — with Apollo making 7-of-8 free throws along the way — that helped the E-Gals pull away for good.

"We challenged each other at halftime to just be tougher, and they rose to the challenge," said Apollo coach Natalie Payne, who won her 200th game as a head coach. "They rebounded better, they were more physical, they were stronger with the ball — all those toughness things. I thought we did a better job of that in the second half."

Much of that, Payne said, stemmed from her team stringing together stops on the defensive end first.

"I think our kids bought into that," she said. "When you're getting consecutive stops, then everything starts clicking on the other end. That's what happened.

"We were just preaching the defensive effort and locking down and getting three stops in a row. Those kinds of stops will maybe lead to easy scores on the other end — passing ahead, getting on the break, getting to the free-throw line. Once we saw a few of those free throws and layups go in, then you just gain more confidence."

Sapp finished with 11 points for Apollo, going 5-of-6 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter. As a team, the E-Gals made 19-of-26 free throws (73.1%). Jennifer Lee added nine points, with seven points coming after halftime.

"It was a total team effort," Payne said. "Gracie Survant did a really good job of taking care of the basketball. They were face-guarding Kennedy most of the game, so she took that on and she found people at the right time to hit key shots. Abby was a warrior on the boards. Jennifer stepped it up big time in the second half around the basket.

"Kennedy didn't let things bother her. She let the game come to her and she kept her focus and realized her teammates were going to step up and hit some big shots, and then she was ready to step up when it was her time again. And Taraya, she hit a big, timely 3."

Brooklyn Rhoades led the Lady Eagles with 14 points, including a 3-pointer that tied the game at 12-12 heading to the first break. Her nine first-half points helped push Ohio County to a nine-point halftime advantage. Camryn Kennedy chipped in 11 points, as well.

According to Payne, the victory should serve as a confidence boost for her squad moving forward.

"It's huge for our girls," said Payne, whose team was without starting guard Gizelle Whitlock. "We've been through a lot this year with injuries and sickness and a lot of adversity we've had to fight through. It's teaching them how to be stronger, how to be more mentally tough. A game like this is a prime example. I keep telling them it's a marathon, not a sprint. These are all practice games leading up to what we need to do to take care of business when it's tournament time."

Ohio County returns to action Friday with a home game vs. Hancock County, while Apollo is set to host Warren Central on Saturday.

APOLLO 12 6 17 18 — 53

OHIO COUNTY 12 15 11 8 — 46

Apollo (53) — Lane 24, Sapp 11, Lee 9, Thompson 5, Survant 4.

Ohio County (46) — Rhoades 14, Kennedy 11, Decker 6, E. Gray 4, Jachimowicz 3, Milam 3, Wilson 3, S. Gray 2.