PREP BASKETBALL: Armuchee girls fight to pull out 43-40 win in season opener
A late spark by senior Mary Kate Wheeler made the difference for the Armuchee girls’ basketball team Wednesday evening, giving the Lady Indians a 43-40 win over visiting Gordon Lee.
But the battle on the basketball court wasn’t the only battle that the players and coaches had in their thoughts.
The season-opener for both teams served as Armuchee’s annual Coaches vs. Cancer game, which the Lady Indians have used to help raise awareness of breast cancer and raise money for breast cancer research.
“We have started off each of the last five years with our Coaches vs. Cancer game and we wanted to keep up the tradition,” Armuchee head coach Michelle Arp said.
The Lady Indians, meanwhile, got to business early with a 9-2 run to kickoff the game against the Lady Trojans, but Gordon Lee settled in the later part of the first period before going on to take a 23-21 lead at the half.
The teams traded the lead during the third, and Armuchee nabbed it back in the final minute on a layup from Chloe Purdy to go into the final period up 28-26.
Purdy’s field goal was the start of a 9-0 run for the Lady Indians, who took the biggest lead of the night between either team — 35-26 — with a shot from Katie Shinholster.
Gordon Lee (0-1) put together a charge of its own, spearheaded by freshman Emma McGraw’s third 3-pointer and a steal-and-score, to put the Lady Trojans up 38-36.
Julia Williams tied the game back up with 2:20 left to play, and Wheeler got on point on the inside, hitting back-to-back jump shots including the free throw on the and-1 on the second shot to make it 43-38 with 53 seconds left.
McGraw made a pair of free throws to get the final score closer, but Armuchee (1-0) stepped up its defense inside the paint to hold on for the win.
“After graduating four seniors, everybody had to take on new roles this season, and I’ve told them they have to control the controllable by playing hard and finishing shots,” Arp said. “We’re still working on that, but they have the evidence now to see what that can do.”
Wheeler led Armuchee with 13 points and hit five-of-12 from the foul line. Williams finished with 11. McGraw led all scorers with 21 points.
“I’m proud of Mary Kate. She was posting hard and for her to finish like that at the end as a senior was great to see,” Arp said. “We stayed with it and hustled hard to make shots when it counted.”
Christy Carter, a 1990 graduate of Armuchee High School and breast cancer survivor, was recognized at halftime, and players, coaches and fans were asked to write the name of someone they know who was diagnosed with cancer on a pink sheet and stand prior to the game.
All of the ticket sales from the game and donations taken up will go to The Breast Center at Floyd.
Carter was a member of the Lady Indians’ basketball and softball teams during her time at Armuchee and the aunt of current Armuchee varsity basketball player Grace Stanley.
Carter was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in early 2014 and, after undergoing a year of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and radiation treatment, has been cancer free for three and a half years.