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By GOOSE LINDSAY
In a match-up of two of the state’s top Class A teams, defending state champion Jackson County traveled to Oliver Springs Friday night and handed the Lady ‘Cats a 65-57 setback in a TSSAA Hall of Champions Game.
Oliver Springs basically let the game slip away in the second quarter. The Lady ‘Cats trailed 24-21 after eight minutes of play, but the Lady Devils scored the first eight points of the second period and would lead by as many as 14 points in the period before taking a 43-31 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Oliver Springs did battle back in the second half and pulled to within three points on two separate occasions in the fourth period, but the 12-point halftime deficit proved too much to overcome as Jackson County pulled away late for the eight-point victory.
Friday’s game was also billed as a showdown between all-state stars, Kayla Christopher of Oliver Springs and Jackson County’s Laken Leonard. Both players were TSSAA Class A Miss Basketball finalists last season and they did not disappoint Friday night as Leonard ended the evening with 25 points, six rebounds and four steals while Christopher pumped in 32 points to go along with six rebounds and two steals.
Christopher had a big first quarter as she buried a pair of three-pointers in scoring 14 points in the first eight minutes of play.
Leonard also started strong as she scored seven points in the first period.
The second quarter belonged to the Lady Devils as they seemed to out-hustle the Lady ‘Cats to every loose ball and long rebound. The result was a 43-31 lead at halftime.
Kelsey Hall and Kasi Bilyeu scored four points each for the Lady ‘Cats in the second quarter.
Oliver Springs turned the tables on Jackson County in the third period as it would be the Lady ‘Cats’ hustle that got them back into the game. The Lady ‘Cats opened the period with a 7-2 run and outscored the Lady Devils 16-8 in the quarter to make the score 51-47 with eight minutes of play.
Christopher (11 points) and Bilyeu (5 points) combined for all of Oliver Springs’ points in the third period.
The game remained close through the first six minutes of the final period and a Bilyeu basket with 1:49 left to play pulled the Lady ‘Cats to within 57-54. Leonard, however, answered with an old-fashioned three-point play and that sparked an 8-0 run down the stretch that made the score 65-54 before Christopher ended the game with her third three-pointer of the evening.
Besides Christopher, Bilyeu had a great night for the Lady ‘Cats with 16 points and four rebounds.
Emily Bowman (11 points) also scored in double figures for Jackson County.
Oliver Springs (57) Christopher 32, Hall 4, Bilyeu 16, Raby 2, Harper 3.