HOMER — The Banks County girls put on the kind of display Friday night that James Naismith envisioned when he created the game.
The Lady Leopards used pick-and-rolls, back-cuts, and kickout passes on offense and a stifling match-up zone on defense to breakdown Putnam County virtually from start-to-finish in a crucial 61-40 Region 8-AA victory at the Banks County gym.
It was a huge game not just for the teams themselves but the region as a whole. Banks County (15-3, 5-0 Region 8-AA) now holds a two-game lead over the Lady War Eagles (13-2, 3-2) for first place with the girls regular season champion playing host to the upcoming region tournament.
The Banks County boys made it a sweep with a 67-45 victory in the nightcap.
The Lady Leopards, who came into the game riding an eight-game win streak, including four region games by an average of 23 points, dominated the first half building a 32-8 halftime lead getting 11 layups out of its 12 first half baskets with nine assists. On defense, they forced 10 first half Putnam County turnovers and held them to just 3-of-17 shooting.
Banks County girls coach Steven Shedd may want to consider marketing the first half tape for future camps.
“I don’t know about that but we did execute very well,” Shedd said. “We could not have scripted the first half any better. But, we also practiced a lot for this game and talked about getting the ball inside. (Putnam) is very quick with their man-to-man defense and we felt like we could have some success if we ran our offense.”
It didn’t hurt that Amber Williams had perhaps the game of her career. The junior post poured in a team-high 19 points to go with 7 rebounds and 5 blocks as the Lady War Eagles had no answer inside.
“Amber over the last couple of weeks has really started to step up on the offensive end. She’s always been solid defensively,” Shedd said.
Putnam County did not go quietly, however. The Lady War Eagles came out in a zone to start the second half prompting Banks County to pull the ball out. That resulted in four early Banks County turnovers and sparked a 10-0 Putnam County run to get within 32-18.
But Banks County was able to drain time off the clock forcing Putnam County to pull out of its zone. Almost on cue, the Lady Leopards offense went back to work as they closed out the third quarter with a 7-0 run for a 40-20 lead getting three more layups in the process.
A Maddie Thomas basket pushed the lead to 42-24 early in the fourth quarter but the Lady War Eagles mounted one last rally getting within 42-30. The Lady Leopards, however, responded with a 15-5 spurt to put the game out of reach.
Allison Smith added 14 points and Thomas finished with 9 points for Banks County.
Rykia Pennamon led Putnam County with 12 points. Hailey Hyman added 10 points for the Lady War Eagles.
BANKS COUNTY BOYS 67,
PUTNAM COUNTY 45
Banks County trailed just once and used a 9-2 first quarter run to grab a lead it would never relinquish in a battle for second place in Region 8-AA.
The win pushed Banks County (15-3, 4-1 Region 8-AA) into sole possession of second place one game ahead of the War Eagles (4-10, 3-2) and one game behind Elbert County.
A Carl Cleveland 3-pointer two minutes into the game erased a 3-2 deficit and ignited the early run. Putnam County pulled within 13-11 on a Chente Williams 3-pointer but Banks County took control with a 12-0 spurt, capped by another Cleveland 3-pointer, who had 16 of the Leopards' first 25 points.
The War Eagles never got closer than seven points, at 26-19, the rest of the way. Banks County led 28-20 at halftime and then used a 13-4 third quarter run to blow things open.
Putnam County got 25 points from leading scorer and leader D’Mario Reid. But Reid also picked up two technical fouls in the game and will have to miss the next two games, both region contests on the road.
Darius Bonds added 16 points and Dylan Orr had 14 points, including a pair of acrobatic dunks, for Banks County.
Both Banks County teams will travel to Oglethorpe County on Saturday in Region 8-AA action. Tip off for the girls game is scheduled for 4 p.m.