0109 We2 Stan girls

Caleb Turrentine / Tallapoosa Publishers Wetumpka’s Janae McCall (20) dribbles through Stanhope Elmore’s defense during Saturday’s championship.

As expected, it was a back-and-forth affair between rivals Wetumpka and Stanhope Elmore in the Elmore County Tournament championship game in Millbrook on Saturday. The matchup included seven lead changes with at least one in each quarter but Wetumpka made enough plays on the defensive end down the stretch to close out a 57-53 win over the Mustangs.

“Every time we play them, we know it’s going to be a fight,” Wetumpka coach Jermel Bell said. “Tonight, it was on our end. I’m proud of our girls. Playing three nights in a row, you didn’t know if it was going to sustain it for four quarters but we probably played our best game of the tournament today.”

Wetumpka held the lead for most of the second half but the Mustangs pushed in front with a bucket from Jacey Haynes in the final minute of the third quarter and they extended that lead to four points in the first minute of the final frame.

Wetumpka’s Janae McCall, who had been held in check for most of the game, turned things on and scored seven points in the next three minutes to lead a 12-1 run, forcing a timeout from Stanhope Elmore coach Kelvin Stokes. McCall finished the game with nine points and was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.

Wetumpka held an 8-point lead with 3:30 to go but it would have to rely on its defense as it was held without a made shot the rest of the game. The defense delivered, holding the Mustangs to just two made field goals of their own over the final seven minutes.

“The defense is what we take pride on all year,” Bell said. “Our offense played great in spurts but we always preach when we make mistakes on offense, let’s go harder on defense. We missed some shots and had some turnovers but we turned it around and played fantastic on defense.”

Seniors Angel Knight and Morgan Causey led the defensive efforts throughout the game and elevated the intensity in the fourth quarter. Knight led Wetumpka with five steals while Causey finished with six blocks and four steals.

Causey also provided a big boost on offense, scoring a season-high 15 points to go along with 15 rebounds. Causey was named to the all-tournament team for her performances across the week.

“That’s what you expect out of your senior,” Bell said. “She’s been working for games like this for the last four or five years. She’s going to remember this game forever.”

Stanhope Elmore got most of its offensive production from all-tournament forward Jacey Haynes who finished with 16 points. Haynes added eight rebounds, three blocks and three steals.

The Mustangs struggled to find scoring from anywhere else on the court with inconsistent shooting sprouting up from the backcourt players. Brooke Burkett still finished with eight points before fouling out while Kelbi Johnson scored nine.

“We just could not get a shot,” Stokes said. “My guards didn’t shoot the ball. They have to know we need them to shoot the ball a little better than they were. We can’t look for Jacey the whole time. We got out of sync a little bit on offense.”

The two teams will meet again next Saturday for its first regular season area matchup of the season.

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.