VALDOSTA -- Lowndes' girls were good Friday night. Very good.
Lowndes defeated Valdosta convincingly, 78-46, in a big Region 1-AAAAA girls basketball game Friday night at LHS' Charles Cooper Gymnasium.
Five Vikettes scored in double figures, led by senior Monique Ellis' 24 points, and a dominant first quarter proved to be too much for Lowndes' crosstown rivals.
Going into the game, Lowndes head coach Laine Craven had said her post players-- Ellis and Currie Powers-- needed to step up against Valdosta. Step up they did-- in a big way. Ellis scored a game-high 24 points, while the 6-foot-1 Powers and her size was a major presence in the paint against the small Lady Wildcats, allowing Valdosta few second chances when they missed a shot.
"Monique is our spark," Craven said. "She has really stepped up this year, and is playing some good basketball. Currie had an excellent game. She's worked very hard to improve. She did a good job blocking out (for rebounds)."
"I felt very comfortable," Ellis said. "I tried not to think about this being Valdosta. I tried to think about this as a region game."
Lowndes gave an eight-minute display of its firepower in the first quarter. It started with Brandy Holsendolph hitting a three-pointer 31 seconds into the game, then four seconds later, Ellis stole the ball and converted it into a layup. Powers hit a jumper, and Candice Close hit two free throws and a jumper from just inside the three-point line, and the Vikettes had an 11-2 lead. Later in the quarter, Lowndes had a 6-0 run. Lowndes was missing few shots, and when they did, Powers or Ellis was often there to grab the rebound.
"We came out very poised, considering the emotions of this game, and the crowd noise," Craven said. "We showed what kind of character we have, and how good we are."
At times in the game, Lowndes seemed to be taking pages out of the Lady Wildcats' book. The Vikettes used a full-court press most of the first quarter to pressure VHS with its quick guards, and created several turnovers. Lowndes also played with a quick tempo, a style traditionally more suited to Valdosta's guard-heavy teams but one that fit nicely with Lowndes' quick guards Close, Miaie Williams and Holsendolph.
"I know. It's usually them running the fast break on us," Craven said. "Candice, Miaie and Brandy have done a good job for us this season."
The Vikettes put an exclamation point on a dominant first period by scoring the final eight points, including a buzzer-beating jumper by Ashley Elam. The buzzer sounded with Lowndes leading 31-11.
Valdosta picked up its play in the second quarter, particularly once big center Powers sat down. The Lady Wildcats narrowed the deficit some with a 10-4 run, but Lowndes still wound up heading to the locker room with a 44-25 lead.
Whatever got into the Vikettes early got into them again in the third quarter. Lowndes went on a 21-4 run that stretched the lead over 30. The hottest hand this time was Williams, who had 12 points in the run.
At the end of three, Lowndes' lead was up to 68-36. Reserves played most of the last period for LHS.
"We're very excited to win," Ellis said. "This is the most we've beaten Valdosta by since I've been here."
In addition to Ellis' 24, Williams scored 13 points, and Powers, Holsendolph and Close added 10 apiece.
Lowndes must quickly regroup. The Vikettes play Tift County tonight.
Valdosta now will get ready for its game tonight at Madison County (Fla.).
"Valdosta's coming around. They'll get better, and be playing very well when the region tournament comes around," Craven said.
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