Lady Dragons come up short

Clinton High School girls basketball coach Alicia Phillips knew that her team was riddled with injuries as it played at Hardin Valley Academy Thursday night. That meant that she had to rely on some younger players to step up.

But the coach wasn’t accepting excuses for a lackluster performance against the Lady Hawks on the road.

“We did some inexcusable things,” Phillips said after the Lady Dragons came up on the short end of a 78-72 decision against a team that has had its share of struggles this season. “We had turnovers and we just didn’t defend and those things are inexcusable.”

Clinton (15-14) has been ravaged by injuries this season and Thursday night was no exception in a game where the Lady Dragons fell behind big early.

The Lady Hawks 10-16) opened a 20-14 advantage by the end of the first quarter as Avery Laugherty came off the bench to hit three 3-point shots to close the opening frame after Clinton a 14-11 lead out of the gate.From there, things would only get worse for the Lady Dragons, who fell behind 41-21 when HVA’s Maliaka Grice buried a layup with 3 minutes, 42 seconds remaining in the second stanza.

Clinton, however, would battle back and pull to within 47-37 by halftime.

But the Lady Dragons had no answers to stop Grice, who celebrated her senior night by scoring 32 points. Laugherty was also a thorn in Clinton’s side as she finished the contest with 21 points, knocking down five long-range jumpers in the game. Tori Adams also had 10 points for the Lady Hawks, who led 61-47 after three quarters.The Lady Dragons’ offense finally came to life over the final eight minutes. Clinton buried four long-range jumpers in the frame and pulled to within 76-72 when Naiyah Sanders nailed a 3-pointer with 7.4 seconds remaining in the game.Sarah Burton had a game-high 35 points for the Lady Dragons. She scored 10 in the final frame as Clinton mounted a late rally. Sanders finished with 15 points, including nine (on three 3-pointers) in the fourth quarter.

While Phillips was far from pleased with her squad’s effort on this night, she lauded Clinton’s late comeback attempt.

“I liked the way we battled in the fourth quarter and got ourselves back in the game,” she said. “But it was just too little, too late.”

HVA coach Jennifer Galloway has watched her team struggle through two rebuilding seasons since reaching the state sectionals in 2017-18, was happy to see the Lady Hawks pick up a victory on Senior Night.

“I’m really pleased,” she said. “This team has been a fun one to coach because every time we take the floor, the girls see an opportunity to get better. This is a big win over a good team.”