A good start wasn't enough for Silverdale Baptist Academy's girls to bury Grace Academy on Tuesday, but a good finish was.
The Lady Golden Eagles battled back from an eight-point deficit late in the first quarter to tie the District 5-A high school basketball game late in the third. But the Lady Seahawks regrouped immediately and won 41-31.
Silverdale (11-8, 3-0) strengthened its hold on first place in the league standings, although the Lady Seahawks still have five district games remaining. The next is scheduled Friday at Arts & Sciences (3-1 in 5-A), which visits Silverdale on Feb. 8.
"It's never easy to come into Grace Academy and get a victory," Silverdale coach David Massengill said. "Now we've got CSAS Friday night. The last couple of years we've been co-champions with them. We want to try and win this thing by ourselves. We know we've got to go through CSAS to get it."
The Lady Seahawks had beaten Grace (6-11, 3-2) handily on Dec. 7. This time they led 12-4 after Megan Lewis made a 3-point shot from the left corner with 1:30 to go in the first quarter. Lewis had eight of her 11 points in the opening period.
The Lady Golden Eagles spent the next 15 minutes methodically working their way back, and when Sierra Nunley made two free throws at 2:31 of the third quarter, they had caught up at 24. Massengill said his team's cold shooting during that time kept the Lady Seahawks from getting into their full-court press.
"They tried to slow the ball down on us," he said. "Our game is to run. They were making three or four passes offensively before they started looking for anything. We had started out in a 3-2 zone. They figured that out, so I switched us to a 2-3 zone. We finally started grinding and getting things to happen our way."
That began with coach's daughter Mariah Massengill making a 3-pointer from deep on the right wing 15 seconds after the Lady Golden Eagles tied the score. After Grace's Emily Gill made a jumper from the high post, Silverdale scored the next 10 points and retook command at 37-26.
"If you want to compete for championships, you can't dig a hole early, especially with a growing team," Grace coach Les Compton said. "You don't want to make it harder on yourself than you have to."
Massengill paced Silverdale with 19 points, hitting 10 of 10 free throws. Sloane Woodard contributed nine points.
Grace's Claire McMasters had 10 points and 13 rebounds, and Nunley added nine points.
"We competed better," Compton said in comparison to the December meeting. "The first time we played, we didn't have everybody compete. This time we were much better in terms of effort. It was not the execution we wanted or needed, but we played well enough to be in the game and stay in the game, just not well enough to win it."
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.