SAVANNAH -- A basketball team as talented as No. 4 Riverdale only needs a small opening to pounce for the kill.

Say, about two minutes.

That's how long Valdosta's Elis King was sidelined after taking a spill midway through first half Friday afternoon. And once the sophomore standout returned to action, the Lady Raiders had gone from low idle to full throttle, closing the half on an 11-2 run to break open a 58-40 victory in the second round of the GHSA Class AAAAA girls' tournament at Tiger Arena on the campus of Savannah State University.

King almost single-handedly kept Valdosta (16-12) alive in the first half, scoring 12 of her team's first 16 points. But after her off-balance scoop shot cut the lead to 18-16, the sophomore forward crashed to the floor while trying for a loose ball on defense. In her absence, Riverdale ramped up the pressure and finally started getting shots to fall. By halftime, the Lady Wildcats trailed 29-18.

"Elis sat down for two minutes and then the momentum certainly favored them," said Valdosta head coach Deidre Williams. "We were forced to play a couple of girls out of position because we had a couple of injuries. We didn't have that cohesiveness we were used to."

Included in the injury total was junior guard Danielle Smith, who did not play.

The game, the first of four Friday at SSU, was delayed 30 minutes after Riverdale (27-3) showed up with the wrong-colored uniforms and had to go back to its hotel to change. Early on, the Lady Raiders looked sluggish while missing several easy shots. That wasn't the case in the third quarter. Dominique Philpots went on a personal 10-2 in the period as Riverdale -- which has only lost one game to a Georgia team (Carver-Columbus) this year -- stretched the lead out to as many as 20 points and left Williams fretting about a "lack of intensity."

"The girls knew that it was do or die. It's like we said in the locker room 'If you know you just have 24 hours to live, live your life to the fullest.' And we just didn't play that way the whole time. But I'm still proud of the effort."

Valdosta finally regained its composure in the final minutes, but never cut the lead below 13 points. King finished with 18 points, the only Lady Wildcat in double figures. Fellow sophomore Jessica Moore finished with eight points and Freda Davis added seven.

Philpots -- one of two Lady Raiders listed at 6-foot-3 -- finished with 16 points and Brittany Baity added 10.

While Riverdale continues its quest to avenge last season (the Lady Raiders were the state's top-ranked team but lost in the region quarterfinals), Valdosta can look forward to having a veteran team return next winter. The Lady Wildcats lose only senior Tonya Richardson off this year's squad.

"It's been a learning process," said Williams. "It could go either way next year, but I'm expecting big things."



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