(T-G Photo by Chris Siers) [Order this photo]
The Cascade Lady Champions (17-6, 12-1 9-A) dispatched the MTCS Lady Cougars (14-10, 7-6 9-A) on Tuesday night, 49-44, to inch one step closer to winning the regular season district championship.
"MTCS is one of the better teams in our district. They're very well-coached. Coach (Lynn) Burkey is a very good friend of mine and we do a lot of similar stuff," said Cascade coach Chad Spencer.
But the Lady Champs' victory setting Cascade one game away from claiming the regular season championship wasn't the biggest headline of the night.
That honor belonged to senior Elora Skuce, who banked her 1,000th career point with on a layup with 6:22 left in the third quarter.
After knocking down five points in the first half, including a 3-pointer, Skuce caught an open lane to the basket and hit her 1,000th point, putting Cascade up by six.
While Skuce's benchmark momentarily paused the game to honor her achievement, the Lady Champs went right back to work at trying to secure the district win.
From the opening tip-off to the final buzzer, the game was a physical grind, which Spencer says took the Lady Champs out of their element early in the game.
"Early on, I think we were a little shell shocked with how physical the game was. It took us a while to settle in, but then we came out in the second half and our effort was outstanding," he said.
While it was a close contest through much of the first quarter, Cascade began to put some distance between the Lady Cougs on the scoreboard in the second quarter, and was able to maintain the momentum into the second half.
But MTCS continued hang around and eventually took a 28-27 lead with just under 1:30 to play in the third quarter.
Cascade senior Haley Edmondson put the Lady Champs back on top for good with the rare 4-point play when she drilled a triple from the top of the key and drew the foul. She converted the free throw into the four-pointer, giving the Lady Champs a 3-point advantage.
"What can you say about Haley Edmondson's four-point play? That was big time," Spencer said.
Spencer also got key minutes from freshman Maya Gaston, who along with Edmondson, drove a dagger into the heart of the momentum the Lady Cougs mustered at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
The Lady Champion pair drilled a pair of treys to create some breathing room.
While the breathing room wasn't enough to be completely comfortable, the lead eventually forced MTCS to foul to stop the clock.
And Edmondson made the Lady Cougars pay.
Following a dry spell at the line late in the game, Edmondson hit 5-of-6 free throws in the fourth quarter to lift the Lady Champs to the win.
"Even though we weren't hitting two shots in the double bonus, we were still hitting one out of two and keeping it a two possession ball game. We did what we had to do at the free throw line, but we could have done a little better," Spencer said.
In all, the Lady Champs managed 16-of-31 total tries at the free throw line for 51 percent.
While Edmondson led the team with 12 points, Spencer was pleased with the effort and intensity of the entire senior corps.
"Haley is playing with a mission right now. All my seniors are," Spencer said.
Cascade seniors combined for 36 total team points against the Lady Cougars on Friday night.
The win puts the Lady Champs on a collision course with the Moore County Raiderettes, who also sit with a 12-1 district 9-A record throughout the season.
Moore County's lone defeat came at the hands of the Lady Champions on Jan. 8 when the Lady Champs edged the Raiderettes 46-43.
But Friday's showdown promises to be an even greater challenge for Cascade than the previous encounter this season.
"We play Friday night against Moore County. That's going to be a tough ballgame going into their gym. That's a hard atmosphere to play in," Spencer said.
The winner of Friday's contest between the two 9-A squads will emerge with the regular season district championship.
Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. in Lynchburg.
MTCS 8 12 10 14 -- 44
Cascade 9 15 9 16 -- 49
MTCS: Juliann Peters 13, Abby Sweeney 11, Megan Smith 8, Erin Mullins 5, Devon Welker 4, Abby Buckner 3.
Cascade: Haley Edmondson 12, Elora Skuce 9, Kelsey Parker 9, Maya Gaston 7, Jessica Ervin 6, Haylee Simpson 4, Andrea Pigg 2.
3-Point Goals: Cascade (5): Edmondson 2, Skuce, Simpson, Gaston; MTCS (3): Peters 3.
Halftime score: Cascade 24, MTCS 20.