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Lady Sharks split county tilts, win three straight

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By Sean Arnold

The Cedar Key girls’ basketball team stumbled out of the gate in its return from the holiday break, but quickly returned to its recent winning ways, establishing an overall upward trend as it enters the key part of the season.

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Free throws and rebounds were trouble areas for the Lady Shark in their Jan. 2 home meeting against Chiefland, as the Lady Indians prevailed 55-43.

CMHS employed its size advantage to out-rebound CKS by a 2-to-1 advantage, and the Lady Sharks didn’t counter with their strengths, as they missed seven of their 20 free throw attempts.

Eighth-grader Makalynn Bowling tied the game for the Sharks at 19-19 late in the second quarter on a long 2. CKS was better from the perimeter, connecting on a quartet of 3s, including two by junior Hannah Brinkman and one apiece by Bowling and junior Jasmin Jackson.

But Chiefland finished out the opening half with four straight buckets, and narrowly clung to its advantage in the third before creating some breathing room in the fourth, as Sierra Norris and Courtney Hayes combined for 15 points for the Lady Indians in the final frame.

In going 10 for 14 from the foul line, Norris helped lead CMHS to a decisive edge on free throws, at 19 for 33.

Hayes was big on the glass too, leading the game with 15 boards, including eight offensive rebounds, helping Chiefland to more second chances from the floor.

The teams roughly broke even in other areas, including in field goal percentage, and turnovers and steals.

“We know they have the inside game,” CKS coach David Tomlin said. “We were hoping to neutralize, and we didn’t. (First-year CMHS coach Buddy Vickers) has done a really good job with his girls against the press with the talent that they have.

“Free throws really were the difference. I was mostly happy with our press, I was real our box-and-run – Mackenzie Kirkbride did a super job when we went box-and-run. They did more things right than we did, they deserved to win.”

The Lady Sharks bounced back from the defeat to string together wins against Bell (Jan. 4, 37-23); Bronson (Jan. 5, 64-57); and St. Francis Catholic (Jan. 8, 39-20). The wins gave CKS a three-game winning streak heading into its game at Meadowbrook Academy in Ocala Jan. 11, and gave it wins in five of its last seven games, nudging the Lady Sharks to the cusp of .500 at 7-8 overall. The victories over Bronson and Bell improved them to 3-6 in District 1A-7 play.

Cedar Key posted its highest scoring total of the season against the Lady Eagles behind 24 points from Jackson and 11 from Bowling. It enjoyed at least four points from five more scorers, and, in a significant turnaround from the Chiefland game, the team went 19 for 34 (56 percent) from the foul line. Six different Sharks boasted at least four rebounds, including a eight from Jackson, seven apiece from Cassie Lozier and Rylee Smith, and six from Brinkman.

“Rylee’s gotten confident with the ball in her hands,” Tomlin said.

In a defensive slog against Bell, CKS limited the Lady Bulldogs to two points in the fourth quarter. Bowling had six steals in the game, and Lozier had five. Against St. Francis, Jackson had a double-double behind 13 points and 10 rebounds.

“The nice thing about this team is they are very resilient, even when things aren’t going the way they want them to,” Tomlin said. “They’re as fine a group as I’ve ever coached. I hope that we can notch a few more W’s, but they try to do everything that is asked of them to maximize our opportunities to win.”

After facing Meadowbrook in Ocala, CKS is back at home Friday Jan. 12 against Ocala Christian.