Garrard County girls looking for consistency as district play nears

Published 11:20 pm Tuesday, January 2, 2018

LANCASTER — Garrard County’s start to the season has been mixed.

Head coach Scott Latham liked what he saw from his team last week in a challenging tournament at Madison Central, despite losing three games.

He didn’t see that same fire on Thursday in the Lady Lions’ Classic, as Garrard fell to Lexington Christian Academy 48-42. Garrard beat the Eagles 40-36 in overtime earlier this year.

Email newsletter signup

“We didn’t come out with the energy and fire that we did in our last tournament,” Latham said. “That was very disappointing. I thought we would bounce after playing tough at Madison Central in some big, physical games that we were close in. I thought we’d be ready to get over the hump. We just didn’t come out to play today.”

LCA opened the game with a 13-8 lead after one quarter and held a sizeable rebounding advantage throughout the game.

“A lot of our problem today was we just weren’t ready,” Latham said. “We weren’t ready to play defense, we weren’t ready to shoot. I had to sit Madisyn Neely down on the bench because if she’s not going to shoot, I might as well leave her over there.”

But the real difference was at the foul line: LCA hit 21-of-24 freebies while Garrard was 13-of-23.

“You don’t rebound, you don’t make free throws. The difference in the game was at the free throw line,” Latham said. “We’ve been shooting 50 or 60 every practice. Until we decide they’re important in practice and we’re going to shoot them game-like, it’s really not going to matter. We got off to a slow start, didn’t rebound.”

Free throws have been and will continue to be a focus for Garrard this season. Before Thursday’s game, the Golden Lions were shooting just 61 percent from the foul line.

Garrard trailed 22-15 at halftime but battled back to take a two-point lead late in the fourth quarter.

“I thought we were just flat till maybe those two minutes in the fourth quarter,” Latham said. “We finally battled, battled, battled to tie it up. But if we can’t rebound or make free throws, free throws are about as fundamental as you can get.”

Olivia Saylor, the only returning senior on the team, was a catalyst in the run, hitting a pair of threes. She scored a team-high 13 points and pulled down seven rebounds to lead Garrard.

Four sophomores rounded out Garrard’s starting five: Katy Pozzuto, Fran Montgomery, Madisyn Neely and Brittany Butner.

But Latham won’t use the “youth excuse” for the struggles his team had against LCA.

“Some of it is youth, but I’m done using that as an excuse,” the coach said. “We’re about midway through the season now. We’ve got to grow. Olivia said it in the locker room when I asked them if they had anything to say: ‘When you get here early, it ought to be about basketball. Everything else has to be left out.’ They were out here shooting around and we were (messing) around, instead of focusing on the game and doing what we needed to do. That’s on me, and I’ll fix that.”

Ashlynn Clark, a senior transfer, will play a key role for Garrard this year but is still familiarizing herself with the Garrard team. She’s played in three games this year and leads the team in points per game in those three contests.

“She’s going to help us. She’s still struggling offensively with what we do, running our offense and stuff,” Latham said. “But she’ll be fine, she’s got a pretty good basketball sense about her and knows what to do. She’s going to help us down the road.”

Latham said when his team is prepared, his team can play — like it did on its run in the fourth quarter.

“We were down and ready. Olivia hit two threes, Brittany hit two, Madisyn hit one,” Latham said. “That’s the difference between being down and ready or standing straight up and down. We have to fix it.”

Garrard’s defense also ramped up its pressure in the second half. The Golden Lions forced 19 turnovers.

“I thought our pressure was good when we wanted it to be, we did force some turnovers and quick shots,” Latham said. “But we’ve just got to do better at that. We’ve got to stop putting ourselves in a hole at the start of a game. But we’ll come back at 3 tomorrow and play again.”

The Golden Lions have two more games in their tournament this week. They’ll start their 2018 schedule with a district game at Boyle County on Jan. 5.

“We’re not ready for district play right now,” Latham said. “I’ve been keeping up with some of the other scores, and we better get ready to play. Because if we play like we did today, it’ll be some long nights in January and February if we don’t pick it up.”

Latham gave two keys for his team that’ll need to get fixed if the Golden Lions want to reach the region tournament.

“We’ve got to start doing the little things,” he said. “We’ve got to start rebounding, we’ve got to block out, we’ve got to run the floor, we’ve got to make free throws. We’re doing a good job of getting to the rim and getting to the foul line. We’ve just got to make them. That’s a big concern. But I think our defense does some good things when they want to, forcing turnovers and picking up the tempo and speed. But we’ve got to be ready to play and do the little things. That’s our two biggest things right now.”