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Lady Braves fall to Walton-Verona

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By Paul Gable

In a game of runs and will, the Walton-Verona High School girls' basketball team came up with the runs when it mattered and imposed its will on the Grant County High School girls' basketball team, earning a 63-53 win over the Lady Braves Tuesday in the first round of the 32nd District Tournament at GCHS.

Holding onto a slim 45-43 advantage, Walton-Verona turned to their top player, senior guard Lauren Hargett and senior center Ashley Bowling to carry the Lady Bearcats to their third victory over Grant County this season.

A basket by Bowling gave Walton-Verona a 48-43 lead and helped spark a 20-12 run down the stretch, which ultimately gave the Lady Bearcats a victory.

Bowling stretched Walton-Verona's advantage to 56-45 with just over two minutes left, but Grant County refused to give up easily, getting baskets from senior guard Sarah Johnson to cut the deficit to 60-51 with 1:12 remaining in the game.

Both teams struggled out of the gate to build any offensive rhythm as turnovers and slow play dominated the early moments of the first quarter.

Trailing 3-2 in the first quarter, Walton-Verona utilitized a 21-8 run to go ahead 21-11 with 4:28 remaining in the second quarter, prompting Grant County coach Darrell Guffey to call a timeout.

The Lady Braves responded to their coach's words, going on a 9-2 run of their own, thanks in part to the play of seniors Salena McIntosh and Johnson, cutting the Lady Bearcats' lead to 25-20 at the half. Walton-Verona shot 4-of-15 from the free-throw line in the first half.

Grant County opened the third quarter with a hot hand as Shayna Lockard and Johnson both burried baskets, cutting the Walton-Verona lead to 25-24. Moments later, sophomore Dawn Plunkett gave Grant County its first lead since the first quarter, slashing her way to the basket. The Lady Braves' advantage would stretch to 33-29 following a basket by freshman Tyanna Workman, however, the lead would be short-lived as Hargett scored six crucial points late in the quarter, propelling Walton-Verona to a 42-37 lead that they would not relinquish.

In the early moments of the fourth quarter, Grant County twice cut Walton-Verona's lead to two points on baskets by McIntosh, but it would be as close as the Lady Braves would get.