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LEXINGTON – In the end, there was little that enthusiasm and competitive spirit could do. There were no coaching moves that could have been made.
Dunbar was simply better than Anderson County as it claimed a 70-59 win over the Lady Bearcats in girls' basketball action last Friday night.
That does not mean that Anderson did not give a good account of itself. The Lady Bearcats fought and clawed Dunbar, ranked 11th in the state by Rating the State. But Dunbar was bigger, more experienced – is not that the situation nearly every time the Lady Bearcats take the floor? -- and simply better last Friday.
That was, in a large part, due to Ebony Rowe.
Ranked as one of the state's top players, Rowe overcame a sluggish first half to fuel a Dunbar uprising that dropped the Lady Bearcats to 10-4 on the year. All of Anderson's defeats have been to ranked teams.
While Anderson never led, the Lady Bearcats came back from deficits of seven and six points to tie things on three different occasions. The last deadlock came when Caroline McDowell finished a nice spin move with a basket 10 seconds into the third quarter.
Rowe, who has signed with Middle Tennessee, responded 38 seconds later, completing an old-fashioned three-point play to equal her first half output. The scorebook read that Rowe finished with 20 points. But the scorebook did not measure what Rowe, generally considered one of the top four players in the state, actually meant to Dunbar.
“After we tied it, she just put them on her shoulders and carried them,” said Adnerson coach Tony Kays. “We didn't have an answer for her.”
The 6-foot-1 Rowe actually did not lead her team in scoring. Those honors went to junior guard Christin Haney, who poured in 27, hitting from the outside and slashing through the Anderson defense. Yet it was Rowe that dominated when the game was on the line. She scored. She rebounded. Ander she created havoc in the middle of Dunbar's 1-2-1-1 zone press.
“She can dominate a game in many ways,” said Dunbar coach Mike Sowers, who improved to 13-3.
Dunbar became more physical and pushed the pace at every opportunity. While the Bulldogs played fast in the first 16 minutes, Anderson responded and trailed just 28-26 at the break. But once Rowe gave Dunbar the lead for good, the Lady Bulldogs gradually pulled away. Dunbar's advantage topped out at 14 midway through the final quarter.
“Their athleticism and depth just wore us down,” Kays said. “They are so athletic that if you make a mistake against them, they are gone.”
Points off turnovers were not available, but Dunbar repeatedy disrupted the Lady Cat attack in the second half, often trapping near mid-court then converting the steal.
“(Anderson) is a team that is very hard to press and they did a good job against our press in the first half,” said Sowers, who instructed his team to switch from the 2-2-1 that it primarily used in the first 16 minutes. “We wanted to mix it up some.”
Yet, Anderson woud not go away, even after Dunbar grabbed the lead for good.
Eriel McKee's three-point play drew the Lady Cats within 43-38 with 3:38 left in the third quarter but Haney answered with a 3-point bomb and a drive for a layup in a 22-second span to make it 48-38.
Another three-point play from McKee drew the lady Cats within 52-46 early in the fourth quarter but Dunbar ran off eight straight points, six from Rowe, to put things out of reach.
“Our effort and focus was good,” Kays said, “Sometimes we are going to look really good and other times not so good. We are getting more consistent.
“We gave up a lot of offensive rebounds after missed free throws. We have got to do a better job on that, but playing this kind of competition can only help us.”
E-mail John Herndon at firstname.lastname@example.org.