Panthers downed by No. 3 Childersburg

Lizi Arbogast / The Observer

Elmore County girls basketball coach Amy Rachel looks on during her team’s season opener against Horseshoe Bend.

Childersburg’s girls basketball team held off Elmore County 58-41 on Monday night to advance to the Southeast Regional Tournament in Montgomery.

The Lady Tigers, ranked No. 3 in Class 4A, got off to a hot start, building a 31-12 lead with 5:36 in the second quarter before the Lady Panthers found the will to fight back.

“We’re going to have to get a lot better if we’re going to get to Birmingham,” Childersburg coach Gavin King said. “Our defense is too relaxed at times. We’re not getting enough pressure on the ball. They had too many open looks that they converted, and we almost let the game slip away right there.”

The Lady Panthers (16-11) put together an 11-5 run to cut the Lady Tigers’ advantage to 36-23 at halftime.

“We just couldn’t quite get over the hump or get out of the hole that we dug ourselves into,” Elmore County coach Amy Rachel said. I’m proud of the effort that my girls gave. Childersburg is a phenomenal team, a well-coached team and a well-rounded team.”

In the third stanza, both offenses stalled, each mustering just four points in a four-minute span. After an Elmore County timeout, Lady Panthers freshman CJ Thornton drained a 3-pointer to pull her team the closest it would get — a 40-30 deficit.

Childersburg entered the final period ahead 48-34 and managed to drain the first two minutes and 15 seconds off the clock before Ke’Asia McKinney scored on a successful layup. The Lady Tigers held their final possession of the game for more than a minute and a half.

“That was good for us to be able to run some clock,” King said. “We got to work on some man plays and not really shoot the ball for a while there. That might help us down the road. We were able to cut their possessions down in the fourth quarter so we could keep our lead. We had a little bit of foul trouble, so cutting the number of possessions down that were in the fourth quarter was really good for us. I was proud of the way we executed some of the style offense there.”

Childersburg senior guard Jailah Swain led her team with 20 points, while McKinney finished her night with 12.

“It’s hard to focus in on one thing when you’re trying to defend them because they have so many weapons on the offensive end,” Rachel said. “Things just didn’t quite work out how we were hoping tonight.”

Elmore County senior Madison Traylor churned out a 16-point effort despite being held scoreless in the first quarter.