By Bill Cross
For The Herald Bulletin
---- — ALEXANDRIA — Coming into Saturday night’s contest, the Shenandoah Lady Raiders stood at 8-1 on the season and riding a five game winning streak.
Meanwhile, host Alexandria was 2-7 in a rebuilding season. The signs pointed to a Shenandoah win, but the Lady Tigers had other thoughts. In the end, the Lady Raiders held on for a 54-51 win thanks to four key free throws by freshman Macee Rudy.
“Great performance by Alex tonight,” Shenandoah coach Chelsea Kilian said afterward. “They shot the ball extremely well and found gaps in our zone, but our kids hit some free throws down the stretch and answered our challenges to gut one out.”
Alexandria started the game well, leading 4-2 in the first quarter. But 5-foot-11 junior Rachel Krathwohl scored nine of her 15 points to give the Lady Raiders a 17-6 lead at the end of the first.
Alex got to within six points midway through the second but Shenandoah held a 28-21 halftime lead. The Lady Tigers were able to take advantage of some ragged play by Shenandoah early in the third to get back into the game.
Kelsey Crisp scored early in the third to cut the lead to 30-25 and Kilian called timeout. Back to back baskets by Crisp and Desirae Litchfield cut the deficit to one with four minutes left. Alexandria continued the run, eventually taking a 39-34 lead on two Litchfield free throws with 21 seconds left in the third.
“We got in foul trouble, we had three starters on the bench with two fouls each,” Kilian said. “It hurt our flow a little bit and we really had problems getting back into rhythm.” The Lady Raiders trailed 43-37 with six minutes left in the game when they started a 10-0 run to lead 47-43.
Alexandria coach Tina Bolte called timeout as the game seemed to be slipping away. But the Lady Tigers responded to the challenge and tied the game at 47 with 2:45 to go on a basket by Taylor Jones.
Enter Rudy and her heroics for the Lady Raiders. She hit a three pointer with 2:25 left and four straight free throws late in the game to help her team hang on. Rudy was 2-6 at the line in the first half, but a perfect 4-4 in the fourth. Rudy also tipped the inbounds pass out of bounds with 2.9 seconds left as Alex tried to attempt a three to tie.
The Lady Tigers got the ball with 0.9 seconds left but Courtney Skinner’s three from half-court was short. “She (Rudy) hit some big free throws, but the pressure on defense she added was the biggest thing,” Kilian said.
Alex came up short, but Bolte was pleased with what she saw from her team. “That’s the best we’ve played so far,” Bolte said. “To watch a group improve as much as our group has, Shenandoah is having a great year. I didn’t expect it to be this type of game.”
Bolte was happy not only with the performance, but with the growth she is seeing in her team. “To get the lead, to be a part of it was a really positive thing for our team,” Bolte said. “This group has responded all year to what I’ve been asking.”
Rudy led Shenandoah with 20 points, Krathwohl had 15 and Morgan Tapscott had 7. Alexandria was led by the combo of Skinner and Morgan Oliver with 15 points apiece, Litchfield finished in double figures with 12.
Shenandoah (9-1) has now won six in a row and will host 8-2 Tri in the Henry County Tourney on Friday, January 10th, at 6 p.m. Alexandria (2-8) is scheduled to travel to Liberty Christian Monday for the first round of the Madison County Tourney at 6 p.m.
In JV action, Shenandoah downed Alexandria 26-17.