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RUSH SPRINGS —
Thursday night saw the Black Diamond Tournament get a black eye, literally.
In the girls semi-final matchup between No. 9 Sterling and Central High, tempers boiled over in the third quarter as CHHS’ Caitlyn White and Sterling’s Whitney Jung were both ejected for throwing punches.
However, it was Sterling who eventually threw the real knockout blow in the third quarter as the Lady Tigers blew open a close game to claim a 43-24 victory.
“Our biggest thing was we were just in too much of a hurry all the time,” Sterling coach Rick Wilson said. “When you are shooting too many shots and they aren’t going in you need to go slower. After halftime we went from shooting about 3-for-17 to shooting 5-for-6. Madison Bradshaw really kind of took charge and we were able to get her isolated a couple of times.”
With the game at 21-16 with 6:40 remaining in the third, Sterling took advantage following the ejections to go on a 7-0 run over the next four minutes.
At the end of the third the Lady Tigers were in firm control at 32-17, which was a far cry from the first half when both teams seemed evenly matched.
Central High held a slim 10-8 advantage after the first quarter, thanks in part to two free throws from Lora-Lynn Loomis who was fouled at the buzzer attempting a three-point shot.
Sterling tried to pull away in the second, but the Lady Bronchos were holding firm as a six point Lady Tiger advantage was cut down to a two point lead at 18-16 going into the halftime break.
Central High couldn’t get any closer than 16 in the fourth quarter as the dreams of an appearance in the championship game slowly faded away.
On the evening, the Lady Bronchos were 5-of-10 from the free throw line, while going 4-of-11 from outside the arc.
Sterling meanwhile only went 0-of-2 from three point range, while shooting 13-of-19 from the charity stripe.
“We felt like we had a quickness advantage at a couple of positions,” Wilson said. “So when they were playing man-to-man we wanted to isolate. In the first half we were shooting blanks from the free throw line, but in the second we started to make those shots.”
Lacie Phillips led the Lady Bronchos with nine points in the contest, followed by Lora- Lynn Loomis with seven points. Caitlyn White scored four points on the night, with Aleia Daniels and Faith Harris each scoring two points. Harris led the team with eight rebounds.
Sterling (13-2) was paced by Madison Bradshaw with 15 points, followed by Laurie Derrico with 14 points.
Central High (9-3) will meet Velma-Alma in the girls’ third place game Saturday afternoon at 2:10 p.m.