Pike Road holds off Montgomery Academy girls in consolation finals

Montgomery Academy's Virginia Meacham brings the ball up the court in the final minutes of Wednesday's game, The senior finished with a game-high 13 points.

Wednesday’s consolation finals in the Coach Larry Chapman Foundation Tip Off Classic was a learning experience for both coaches and players.

Montgomery Academy, still trying to find the right combination in rebuilding from the loss of six seniors from a year ago, struggled to score in Wednesday’s 40-35 loss to Pike Road, a problem the Eagles likely will face all season.

“I’ve learned that some of the younger people can help us and how they can help us,” Montgomery Academy coach Reg Mantooth said. “The biggest thing is we’ve got to get better. We’ve got some game experience now. We can watch some film and look at some things we did and try to get better.”

Pike Road, which jumped out to an early five-point lead in a defensive struggle, has some of the same issues after graduating the bulk of its team after reaching the state tournament two years ago and often struggles to close out games.

“We use these games to help us in the long run,” Pike Road coach Barry Fencher said. “A couple of times, we were up by 10 and let them back in the game when we could have pushed it out, but that’s part of their growth and learning how to win. It was a good win for us.”

With top scorer Chloe Johnson sidelined with an illness on Tuesday, Mantooth moved Virginia Meacham to point guard against Brew Tech on Tuesday and repeated the strategy on Wednesday as Johnson struggled to regain her rhythm.

Meacham scored seven of her game-high 13 points in the first half, while Johnson scored eight of her 11 points in the fourth quarter in a desperate attempt to rally her team, getting as close as 37-35 on her final basket with 33.4 points remaining.

“We had a lot of people to step up and play their roles,” Fencher said. “I know they’re a little limited in what they do. I know who their key players are and we tried to take those two out of the game. Down the stretch, we missed a lot of free throws that really kept it close.”

In the final seconds, with Pike Road concentrating on Meacham and Johnson, the Eagles failed to find any offensive options.

“We’ve got a lot of inexperience,” Mantooth said. “We didn’t play hard, consistently. Our effort wasn’t what it needed to be. You can blame that on sickness or whatever and I’m not really including Chloe in that, but our effort was not what it needed to be.

“I thought we played much harder (on Tuesday). We did not play with that same effort and intensity today.”

Emerson Spohr led Pike Road with nine points, followed by Jazz Johnson and K.J. Fencher with eight points each. All of Fencher’s points came at the free-throw line, where she was 8 of 10 to help the Patriots put the game out of reach.

Montgomery Academy (1-2) return to action on Tuesday at Alabama Christian Academy. Pike Road (3-1) returns home to play host to Marbury on Tuesday.