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Durham's key shot lifts Dutchtown to tourney title

By Derrick Mahone

dmahone@news-daily.com

Dutchtown forward Courtney Durham is usually counted on for her defense and rebounding, but after Tuesday night, she might have earned an offensive reputation.

With the Bulldogs trailing host Henry County by a point, the senior drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give Dutchtown the lead for good with 1:04 remaining. Dutchtown would build on the lead with three free throws and a couple keep steal as it took a 63-57 win against Henry County in the finals of the Chuck Miller Classic.

"She stepped up as a senior, and made a big play," Dutchtown coach Angela Williams said. "It wasn't a design play, because all of my players have the greenlight to shoot. There is not one particular person we depend on to shoot."

However, it took several of Durham's teammates by surprised when she hit want would be the game winning shot.

"We were shocked," said Brittney Strickland, who finished with 27 points to earn tournament MVP honors. "She came through when we really needed it."

The 3-pointer was Durham's only points of the game. She would miss two free throws in the closing seconds of the game. Durham averages about five points a game, but is the team's leading rebounder.

Since she was falling to the floor as the ball went through the nets, Durham never saw the shot once it left her hands. However, the roar from the crowd let her know it went in.

"I wasn't sure if it had went (in) until I heard the fans," Durham said. "I wasn't sure if it was going to go, but I still had a lot of confidence to take it. I was totally surprised."

This game was a complete contrast when the team's met last month. Dutchtown won that earlier contest 84-67 by on Nov. 20. The Bulldogs (10-1) got off to another early lead Tuesday, but had to fight back for this win. After jumping to a 23-14 lead at the end of the first quarter, Dutchtown struggled in the second quarter. Henry County outscored their county rival 17-5 in the second quarter to take a 31-28 lead into the intermission.

The Warhawks (6-2) would increase the lead to six points before Williams challenged Strickland to step up and take control of the team.

"We got really sloppy in the third quarter," Williams said. "I told my point guard to be the floor general. She came out fired up and took control of the floor."

Dutchtown closed the gap to 45-42 going into the third quarter. During the time-out between quarters, Williams gathered her team at the end of the bench to relay a message.

"She told us that we need to get some heart," Strickland said.

"I had some things to say that I didn't want the crowd to hear," Williams said. "I basically told them to did deep and get some heart out there. I think they understood my point."

Henry County the lead on a jumper from Briana Williams with 2:25 remaining in the second quarter, and would not fall behind until Durham hit the 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter.

Warhawks coach Carl Caputa was disappointed in the loss, but acknowledge that his team has made a lot of progress since the earlier 17-point loss.

"It was a well-fought game," Caputa said. "We had a good chance to learn something (Tuesday). My girls learned what they need to do to finish a game. That (Dutchtown) is a good team. We established ourselves that we can play with them. We just have to take what we learned into region play."

Williams said that knew this game would be a lot closer than the first encounter after scouting Henry County in its win over McIntosh Monday night. "They have gotten a lot better," Williams said. "They have a real good team. I knew once they got into the season, that they would be a different group."