By Anthony Rhoads
The A.C. McCullers era at Union Grove High School began Friday night on a positive note as the Lady Wolverines beat Luella 55-49.
The contest was McCullers' first varsity high school game he has coached since retiring from Morrow High School in 1999 after a stellar career that included four state championships.
For the past five years, McCullers had been the head women's basketball coach at Clayton State.
In Friday's game at Luella High School, Union Grove (1-0) led the entire contest with the exception of two brief leads by Luella in the second quarter.
Luella's Lauren Ringfield led all scorers with 17 while Tara Leatherwood led Union Grove with 14. Elizabeth Hawkins added 10 and Jamilah Sharp chipped in 9 for Union Grove.
Union Grove led 14-8 at the end of the first quarter.
With 6:02 remaining in the second quarter, Luella (0-2) was able to tie the game at 17-17 thanks to a pair of free throws by Ashlie Ransom. Ransom scored 10 points on the night.
A Ransom basket at the 5:30 mark of the second quarter put Luella up 19-18 but Union Grove took the lead back when Sharp scored two free throws with about five minutes remaining in the half.
With 4:35 remaining in the second quarter, Ringfield made a pare of free throws to give Luella a 22-20 advantage.
Union Grove reclaimed the lead with 2:33 remaining when Rachel Wynn scored to give her team a 23-22 advantage. Union Grove led the rest of the way even though Luella was able to get to within two points in the second half.
Ringfield made two free throws to bring the score to 31-29 with 6:06 remaining in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, Ringfield again made a crucial basket as she scored to bring her team with two (44-42) with 5:45 remaining.
Union Grove only led by three points in the waning seconds but with 27 seconds remaining, Kendra Lee stole the ball near the basket and scored while drawing a foul. She completed the three-point play to put Union Grove up 55-49.
Luella 62, Union Grove 35 (boys): Robert Reynolds led Luella (1-1) with 11 points while Jeremy Ringfield and DeShaun Usher chipped in 8 each.
Union Grove's Greg Williams led all scorers with 13.
"It feels good but the biggest thing was we improved on Tuesday night," Luella head coach Steven Adkins said. "They did better on defense and they were more patient on offense. The stuff we talked about fixing, they fixed it tonight but we need to get better. They did really good on defense; allowing 35 points is great but we need to do that every night. If this team can play defense we will go a long way."
Union Grove (0-1) had a 6-4 lead early but the rest of the game belonged to Luella. After getting back 6-4, Luella went on a 14-3 run to lead 18-7 after the first quarter.
Luella led by as many as 19 on two occasions in the second half. With 1:45 remaining in the half, Jeremy Ringfield made a basket to give Luella a 28-9 lead and at the 1:15 mark, he made a dunk to give the Lions a 30-11 advantage.