After making a run to the state title game lst year, the Opelika Lady Bulldogs returned this season with hopes of more impressive play. On Thursday, this year’s squad took a strong step toward the same success.
Opelika took care of business in the Area 6-6A tournament title game against Russell County, as the Lady Bulldogs rode a dominant second quarter to a 66-47 victory. The win gives the Lady Bulldogs another boost with Class 6A subregionals looming next week.
“I thought we rebounded really, really well. That's something that's been our focus obviously in the postseason. I was proud of the way we gave them one shot and that was pretty much it,” Opelika coach Devin Booth said. “They're a great team, and every time we've played them they've gotten better and better. I thought we just kept chipping away.”
After holding a slim three-point lead after the opening eight minutes, Opelika (24-6) took the game over before the halftime break.
The Lady Bulldogs made the most of every offensive possession in the second quarter, as they repeatedly brought down offensive boards and delivered on second-chance opportunities. Those clutch rebounds combined with the stellar 3-point shooting from La’Dajah Huguley, who hit for deep shots in the first half, set the Lady Bulldogs up to take total control.
Huguley ended the night with a game-high 24 points and six successful 3-pointers.
“The shots that she hit were huge. She's really been working and getting extra time, getting shots up. It paid off tonight,” Booth said. “She plays hard. She gets on the ground after loose balls. She does all those things. Her outside shot really, really helped us today.”
Russell County (21-8) managed to cut Opelika’s lead down to 27-22 with 3:08 left in the second quarter only for the Lady Bulldogs to answer with a 7-0 scoring streak.
Opelika went into the break with a 12-point advantage and kept up the pace in the third to the tune of 15 points. Russell County had moments where it seemed a comeback was plausible, but the Lady Warriors’ poor free-throw shooting ensured that would not happen.
The Lady Bulldogs ended the night in style come the fourth. Opelika rattled off a 13-2 run through the first five minutes of the fourth that featured another 3-pointer from Huguley as well as two shots from behind the arc courtesy Ananda Hughley.
Hughley, who ended the night with 11 points, was named to the All-Tournament team alongside Claire Worth, who had two points, 12 rebounds and four assists in the victory. Kaitlyn Bryant and Haley Sanders each recorded double-doubles in the win courtesy Bryant’s 15 points and 15 rebounds and Sanders’ 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Booth and her players now turn their attention to Monday, when they’ll host the winner of Pelham and Chelsea at 7 p.m. Although the stakes of that game are higher than any the Lady Bulldogs have seen this season, Booth said her message to the team will not change.
“We just keep focusing on the same things that we've been focusing on,” Booth said. “We really focus on what we do. We keep emphasizing rebounding and to just get ready.”