The Lumpkin County girls posted an article in their locker room prior to leaving for West Hall High for Monday night’s game against West Hall in the first round of the Region 7-AAA tournament.
The newspaper article referred to them as an underdog.
The added motivation propelled the Lady Indians to a 47-44 win over West Hall, only their second region win of the season, and a place in the region tournament quarterfinals.
"We said that we were going to come out and prove (The Times) wrong," Lumpkin County coach Jill Armstrong said, "It’s great motivation. Anytime they want to put us as the underdog we’ll take it."
The Lady Indians (9-17) will face Class AAA No. 8-ranked Gilmer at 4 p.m. Wednesday at West Forsyth High.
"We were only down one point to Gilmer going into the fourth quarter the last time we played them," Armstrong said. "We feel like if we go to our strengths we will be successful."
The strength the first-year head coach is referring to worked to near perfection against West Hall (11-12).
Her name is Lacey Wallingford.
The Lady Indians’ junior center was 7-of-8 from the field and 5-of-5 from the free throw line for a team-high 19 points.
Her resilient effort to lead her team to a win was not more evident than in the third quarter when she hit for 11 of her team’s 16 third-quarter points to give Lumpkin County its biggest lead of the game, eight points, heading into the final period.
" I knew we could go to the post against this team (West Hall)," Armstrong said, "and that’s Lacey’s strongest points. I feel like when she gets the ball in the paint she can make things happen."
The junior also had five rebounds, two steals and a game-saving blocked shot with two seconds left until the final buzzer.
With Lumpkin County having led most of the game, West Hall senior Kim Smigelsky got hot from 3-point land at the beginning of the fourth quarter, hitting two straight after starting the game 2-for-9 from the field. Her offensive spark, along with five straight points from Jayla Moon, tied the game at 41 with four minutes left in the contest.
Moon led West Hall with 19 points and Smigelsky had 11.
The Lady Spartans looked to have the momentum heading down the stretch thanks to the early comeback and held a one-point lead with 32.8 seconds remaining.
"We’ve been in lots of games in the fourth quarter and didn’t do what we needed to do to pull it out," Armstrong said.
That wouldn’t be the case this time as freshman Emma Thomaswick and Wallingford hit four big free throws with under 30 seconds to go in the game to give their team the win.
West Hall had a chance, with six seconds left and the score 47-44 Lumpkin County, to tie the game but Wallingford sent the 3-point attempt by the Lady Spartans’ Emily Hammond flying into the bench.
"We had a big game last Friday against White County," Armstrong said, "and I think it showed these girls that we are good enough to play with some of these teams and we can finish a game and we can fight through it.
"We’ve been running the dog out of them, too."
In addition to Wallingford’s 19, Ashley Brown added 11 points for the Lady Indians.
"Right now in the season we are coming together as a team," Armstrong said. "There’s a lot of young girls out there and right now they’re playing well as a team."
With the loss, West Hall’s season concludes.