By TODD LAMBERTH
The Hendersonville Lady Commandos kicked off a string of 11 straight district games with a 49-34 win at Portland on Friday night.
Portland (10-6, 1-3) jumped out to a 12-10 lead after the first quarter behind six turnovers from Hendersonville.
The Lady Commandos (12-5, 3-1) were able to clean things up in the second quarter as they forced six turnovers from Portland as the two teams went into the half tied at 21 apiece.
Hendersonville came out of the half focused on their defense and held the Lady Panthers to just 13 points in the second half with just four made shots from the field.
“It was a gut check,” Hendersonville coach Drew Johnson said. “We went into halftime at 21-21 and almost, in some ways, felt lucky to be in that position. I think the girls bought in that we had to play great defense.”
The Lady Panthers opened the second half of play with a 5-1 run to reclaim a four-point lead. Hendersonville answered with their own run, tying things back up before eventually taking a 29-27 lead late in the quarter. That lead would grow to 31-27 to end the period.
It was all Hendersonville in the final frame, outscoring the Lady Panthers 18-7. Hendersonville used solid free throw shooting to build a lead that Portland couldn’t overcome, going 10-16 from the stripe in the quarter.
“We played pretty hard throughout the duration of the game,” Johnson said. “Toward the fourth quarter just continuing to play that hard, I felt like we eventually wore them down a little bit and I think that was the cause for the run at the end.”
Senior Brooke Long led the way for the Lady Commandos with 19, followed Hartley Hines and Chelsey Burton with 10, Janaeya Hayes with five and Laney Perry with three.
Mac Craddock was the leading scorer for the Lady Panthers with 13, followed by Rachel Jennings with seven, Demaira Bell and Emily Brown chipped in six each and Sami Parker had two.
Hendersonville is back on the court on Tuesday when they host Mt. Juliet at 6:30. Portland steps out of district play on Saturday as they travel to Greenbrier at 6:00.