SCOTTSVILLE — Allen County-Scottsville coach Brad Bonds was content to let Bowling Green junior guard Gabrielle Pruitt shoot Thursday, opting to focus on taking away some of the Lady Purples’ other threats.
But Pruitt led the charge for Bowling Green (21-5), helping the Lady Purples rally in the second half for a 60-55 win over host ACS in the first round of the Girls’ Region 4 Tournament.
“I’m very proud of my team because they didn’t give up,” BG coach LaVonda Johnson said. “They were fighters, and they believed. When it comes tournament time, you’ve got to make sure you have senior leadership and the rest of the players on board to go through adversity. They came together. They didn’t panic. I think everyone, from my coaching staff to all the players, remained calm.”
The Lady Purples showed that poise late at the free-throw line and finished with a balanced effort on the stat sheet.
Pruitt led the way with 14 points, but six players finished with at least eight. Bowling Green, the District 14 winner and reigning Region 4 champion, advances to face Franklin-Simpson at 3 p.m. Saturday in the semifinals.
“We just had to play together, really, and that’s what we did,” Pruitt said. “Everybody played together. Everybody played their role. Everybody off the bench came in and gave good minutes.”
ACS (27-4) won 58-48 at Bowling Green on Jan. 28, but that was before Lady Patriots junior guard Morgan Rich tore the ACL in her right knee last month.
But even without their leader, the Lady Pats built a seven-point halftime lead Thursday before failing to shut down all of Bowling Green’s weapons in the second half.
“We played really well in the first half,” Bonds said. “I thought we executed everything within the game plan perfectly. We were able to get them into some foul trouble early. I thought the key factor in the game was Gabbi Pruitt knocking down shots. ... We were going to allow Gabbi to pretty much shoot the basketball, and she stepped up big-time for her team.”
Bowling Green opened an early 10-6 lead on a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Dejia Moore, but ACS answered with a 9-0 run, capped by junior forward Holly Robinson’s 3 to make it 15-10 at the 2:08 mark of the first quarter.
The Lady Purples scored the final six points of the quarter to pull back in front by one, but ACS started the second quarter with an 8-0 burst and led 32-25 at halftime.
The Lady Patriots held BG to 31.3 percent shooting in the first half and outrebounded the Lady Purples 22-14 before the break. Four Bowling Green starters had at least two fouls in the first half, and Moore recorded three.
BG quickly closed within one possession in the second half but didn’t get back in front until Pruitt buried a 3 with 58 seconds left in the third quarter.
ACS led 51-49 with 2:48 to play, but Bowling Green sophomore forward Oneisha Turner followed with two straight layups. The Lady Purples shot 63 percent from the free-throw line for the game but were clutch in the final two minutes, netting seven of their final eight.
Pruitt, Turner and senior center Makayla Gray each made a pair from the charity stripe with less than a minute left. Gray’s final two with nine seconds on the clock and a three-point lead iced the victory.
“I was really nervous at first, but I got my mind together and focused on my free throws and made sure I made them,” Gray said.
ACS missed a 3-pointer while trailing 56-53 with about 30 seconds left. The Lady Patriots, down by three, also got a steal with 15 seconds to play, but they missed a shot in the lane, which Gray rebounded to set up her game-clinching free throws.
Sophomore guard Savannah Gregory paced ACS with 24 points, 14 rebounds and five assists. Robinson had 16 points and six rebounds, and the team’s lone senior, guard Katie Young, had 10 points and tied a career high with eight rebounds.
The Lady Patriots, who fell in the District 15 final to Glasgow last week, set a program record with 26 regular-season wins this year. They lost just two games before Rich’s injury – both in the same day during a tournament Dec. 23.
“This team, they believe in each other, and they play together,” Bonds said. “I think they’ve grown up a lot. They’ve proven they can pull together even stronger than most people thought they could. I think it’s evident there’s bigger and better things out there for this group next year once we’re able to get everybody back and piece everything together.”
Turner and junior guard Keely Vincent each had 10 points for Bowling Green. Moore and sophomore center Taylor Hunter added nine apiece, and Gray finished with eight points and seven rebounds.
Moving forward, Johnson said she’d like to see the Lady Purples finish better in the paint and come out with more energy to avoid the need for such a dramatic comeback.
“Early in the game, we missed some layups, and I want us to make those easy baskets,” she said. “I also want us to do a better job of matching the other team’s intensity early if they’re going to bring hard intensity. I thought that was what got us down seven points this game.”
- ACS 15 17 11 12 — 55
- BGHS 16 9 18 17 — 60
- ACS — Gregory 24, Robinson 16, Young 10, Sutton 2, Hudson 2, Brooks 1
- BG — Pruitt 14, Turner 10, Vincent 10, Moore 9, Hunter 9, Gray 8