For awhile in the first half Tuesday night, Fort Payne’s No. 12 put on a clinic.
Graiden Haas, an eighth grader, seemingly made steal after steal and lay-up after lay-up, especially in the second quarter, as Fort Payne took a 23-21 halftime lead.
But in the second half, Arab’s No. 12 took over the show. Sydney Ferguson, a freshman, scored nine of Arab’s 19 points in the third quarter as the Lady Knights swarmed past Fort Payne 46-39 in their 6A, Area 15 opener.
Arab outscored the Lady Wildcats 19-3 in the third quarter but the turnaround actually started with 3:10 left in the second quarter. After watching Hass convert her third consecutive steal into a lay-up to give Fort Payne a 19-15 advange, Arab coach Jessica Thompson had seen enough.
She called a timeout and spent most of it chewing out her players over their sloppy passing.
“This is a freaking area game,” Thompson could be heard saying, emphatically. “Have a little pride.”
Message received. The Lady Knights responded with a basket by Ferguson to make it 19-17. From that timeout until early in the fourth quarter, Arab outscored Fort Payne 29-8 to take a 44-27 lead.
Some sloppy play returned after that but the lead proved insurmountable.
Thompson was much more sympathetic about her players’ performance afterward, noting it was the team’s first game in two weeks.
“We haven’t played in two weeks and they got a little tired and that led to some mental mistakes,” she said. “They got a little frustrated (on offense) and that led to some fouls on the other end.
“It’s tough to take off two weeks and come back and play an area game right off the bat, especially against a team like Fort Payne. But it takes a special group to get a chewing out and respond the way they did.”
First-quarter 3-pointers by Ferguson, Kristen Pritchett and Tatum Monroe actually got the Lady Knights out to a 13-10 lead entering the second quarter, which was mostly dominated by Haas and the Lady Wildcats’ defense. Haas finished with a game-high 17 points.
Ferguson finished with 14 points. Reagan Malone, playing her typical steady game throughout, also finished with 14.
Kate Collins added seven points, and Monroe and Laney Kelley each had five.
• JV GIRLS
Arab 28, Fort Payne 23
Arab’s JV girls also trailed at halftime (17-10), and they, too, used a strong third-quarter push to win fairly easily despite some early rust.
The Lady Knights outscored Fort Payne 10-2 in the third quarter, meaning the varsity and JV teams outscored Fort Payne by a combined 29-5 in those periods.
Coach Carlie Henderson credited her team’s defense for the turnaround but also said it was the offense coming around in the second half that really did the trick.
“We played good defense in the first half, but really, we just started hitting our shots in the second half,” she said. “We got plenty of good looks in the first half, but in the second half, we started capitalizing on them.”
Karlie Westbrook led the Lady Knights with 11 points. Bennett Elrod had seven and Lexie Mann added six.