By JUSTIN RAINS
When they needed to, the Cayuga Ladycats buckled down Thursday.
Cayuga held off a second-half charge from Terrell to advance in the Frankston Maidens Invitational Tournament with a 62-52 win, moving on to face Canton at 5:30 p.m. today in the semifinals.
“I think when you win close games it shows heart,” CHS coach Tommy Cross said. “When the other team caught up, we could’ve put our heads down and quit, but we didn’t. We fought through it.”
Cayuga looked as if it might have put things away early on, scoring 23 points in the second quarter to open up a 39-24 lead at halftime after a close-fought first quarter.
But, in the third quarter, the Lady Tigers’ press began to cause problems for the Ladycats, and the third-point shots that had been falling in the first half refused to go down.
Terrell held Cayuga to only four points in the third quarter, and scored 16 of its own to cut the lead to 43-40 heading into the final quarter.
But, Cayuga made some clutch shots late — starting with just under five minutes to play.
That’s when junior Madyson Gunnels hit a three to make it 49-44 Cayuga. Senior Shawnta Knox followed that up with a quick steal of the Terrell inbound pass and got fouled, sending her to the line.
Knox missed both free throws, but Madison Spears was there for an offense rebound and a nice scoop lay-up to make it 51-44 Cayuga, and the Ladycats never looked back.
After a small 4-0 run from Terrell, Spears hit another three-pointer to make it 54-48, and she then hit two free throws to answer a Lady Tiger bucket on the other end that made it 54-50.
Less than a minute later, Gunnels hit two free throws to make it 58-50
“You’ve got to close things out making lay-ups and free throws,” Cross said.
Cayuga really iced the game with a “four corners” offense that spread Terrell out and saw Cayuga players take turns dribbling toward one-another before passing the ball off to a teammate.
That sequence culminated with a wide-open lay-up for Spears with the clock under 30 seconds to play.
“That’s the only shot I’ll let them take in that situation,” Cross said after the game.
It capped off a huge night for sophomore, who finished with 26 points, five rebounds and six assists.
Gunnells added 11 points and three rebounds, while Kylee Cross had 10 points. Danielle Anderson had six points and seven rebounds.
In the win, Cayuga shot 23 three-pointers and hit seven (30 percent). If Tommy Cross has his way, that’s not going to always be the case moving forward.
“That’s just kind of how it happened today,” he said. “We’re very guard-heavy and guard-oriented, so we’re looking for lay-ups and three balls and free throws.”