Fouls threatened to cost the Cairo Syrupmakers on Friday. But instead the foul line saved them.
While Albany took advantage of a physical Cairo defense to rack up trips to the charity stripe in the third quarter of the Region 1-AAAA battle, the Indians’ inability to routinely knock down those free throws helped Cairo hold on for a 45-41 win.
Trailing 23-17 at the break, there was hardly an offensive possession by Albany in the third quarter that didn’t result in a foul as Cairo was whistled for eight fouls in the period, sending the Indians to the line for 11 attempts. However, Albany converted just three of those shots as it finished the game 12 of 29 from the foul line.
That poor shooting kept the Syrupmakers in the game despite the onslaught of fouls. Cairo, which never trailed in the first half and led by 10 at one point, fell behind for the first time with 1:19 left in the third when Malik Dungee hitter a runner to put the Indians up 30-29. Javier Coley added a putback with 35 seconds left in the quarter and Albany had its largest lead at 32-29.
That advantage would be short-lived. William Atkins knocked down a pair of free throws for Cairo, which hit 11 of 18 for the game, to cut the lead to 32-31 heading into the fourth, and the Syrupmakers quickly regained the upper hand there.
At the 6:29 mark, Stacy Masten drilled a 3-pointer to put Cairo ahead and the Syrupmakers never trailed again as Michael Calloway hit a free throw with 3:48 left to give Cairo the lead for good, 37-36. Other than another 3 from Masten, who led all scorers with 17, the Syrupmakers added five points from the free throw line after that to hold off Albany, which was led by Tyler Cheese’s 14 points and Dungee’s 11. The Indians fall to 8-4 and 4-3 in the region.
Demetrica Draggs added seven points and 11 points for Cairo, which improved to 8-7 and 3-4 in the region.
The Syrupmakers held Albany to just one bucket in the first 7:44 of the game as it opened an 8-2 lead. Up 10-7 after the first, Cairo stretched its lead to 19-9 when Andrew McClendon scored off a Cole Bennett pass midway through the second.
Cairo girls 56
The Squaws led for all of 39 seconds as the host Syrupmaids responded to the lead change by scoring the final eight points of the first half.
That was just the beginning, though, as Cairo rattled off a 21-2 run that lasted nearly a quarter as they blew away visiting Albany.
Albany (1-12, 1-6) scored eight straight to take a 17-16 lead with 1:44 left in the second quarter when Alandra Calhoun, who led the Squaws with 11, scored. Cairo quickly reinserted its starters and took the lead back for good on a Tia Washington putback with 1:05 left in the half. Destiny Brown then added a 3-pointer and Hydia Greene also scored as Cairo took a 23-17 lead into intermission.
“We had been playing some younger girls and I think us coaches weren’t real sure about it and they fed off of us,” Cairo coach Lucy Baker said of the shaky stretch.
The Syrupmaids (4-10, 3-4) then alternated baskets with Albany in the first 30 seconds of the third quarter before rattling off 12 straight points as Greene scored five, Destiny Brown added four and Demytra Robinson capped the run with a 3-pointer at the 3:18 mark of the third to make it 37-19.
Brown led Cairo with 15 points, five assists, six steals and three rebounds. Greene added 13.
Already an area of concern for Cairo prior to the game, Albany exploited the Syrupmaids on the glass as the Squaws pulled down 26 offensive rebounds.
“We had talked about it in practice, rebounding,” Baker said. “I know we’re not big. But size to me, and I would tell any kid this, defense and rebounding are about desire.
“Obviously a 6-8 is always going to have an advantage over a 5-8. But if that 5-8 is really to work hard enough, they’ll get some fouls on that 6-8 because they’ll go over the back.”
Calhoun led Albany with 11 points.