Airport girls on verge of first region title

01/30/2013 3:24 PM

01/30/2013 3:26 PM

Airport survived a last-second flurry to defeat Strom Thurmond, 37-36, on Tuesday in a key Region 5-3A girls basketball game.

The host Eagles upped its late lead to 37-34 on a field goal by Kayla Sutton. The Rebels cut the lead to one points with a tally with 20 seconds to go, and promptly stole the inbounds pass. Thurmond repeatedly shot and missed at time wound down but could not deposit the winning points before the final gun sounded.

The decision left Airport (12-8 overall) with a 7-0 region record with three games left to play, while Strom Thurmond dropped to 5-2. The Eagles need one more win to clinch the region’s No. 1 state playoff seed and either two wins or a Strom Thurmond loss to secure what is believed to be the program’s first outright region championship.

Not bad, considering the Eagles had a rough time in 2011-12 and got off to a 1-7 start this season before turning things around. Airport has won nine in a row and 11of 12 since beating Chapin 46-29 on Dec. 18.

“We’re very young and we knew we were going to struggle scoring points, so we have to get by playing good defense,” said veteran coach Trey Wallace.

Indeed, solid defense has carried the Eagles to the top spot in the 5-3A standings. Airport is allowing a meager yield of 23.0 points per game. Thurmond’s 36 points on Tuesday was the first time any team has managed to score more than 25 points against the Birds.

Sophomore Taylor Payne, who rang up 16 points in the big win over the Rebels, is the only player sports a double-digit scoring average. Kaela Mansell, another sophomore, backed Payne with nine points.

Junior Morgan McCray and sophomores Lexy Conyers and Mansell round out the usual starting lineup

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