Girls’ basketball: Concord receives ‘a slap in the face’ from Salem on senior night

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 02-22-2023 12:30 AM

CONCORD – Everything had been running smoothly for the Tide – the team had won five in a row, positioned itself well for the playoffs and started to build confidence that was lacking earlier in the year. But Tuesday night’s 59-34 loss to Salem on the Tide’s senior night served as a reminder: If you let your guard down, you’re going to get beaten. 

The game took an inauspicious turn from the start, with the Blue Devils (8-9) jumping out to a 7-0 lead in the first 3:30 of action. Concord (10-7) started the second quarter with momentum in the form of a 6-0 run that forced Salem to take a timeout and recalibrate. But the third quarter was the ugliest, with the Blue Devils outscoring the Tide 23-12 to open up what felt like an insurmountable 17-point lead.

“I don’t think our heads were in it,” head coach Rob Darrell said. “I thought we were better prepared than we were. I don’t know where it came from because we’ve been playing really well the last few games.”

Perhaps, Darrell mused, the senior night festivities served as a bit of a distraction from the actual game. But, he’d rather have the hiccups come now, before the playoffs begin.

The Tide won’t know its exact seeding or opponent until later this week, once the rest of Division I wraps up regular season games. In the meantime, Darrell has a few key priorities to focus on in practices. It all starts on defense, notably communication and playing with pride.

“Worst-case scenario, we got this out of our system, a little wake-up call,” he said. “We’re still the same team. But we don’t have a stud on this team. If we don’t do our jobs, then we don’t do well. That’s why we’ve been successful, and tonight we got a little off track.”

One of the big issues for Concord on Tuesday involved defending the perimeter; Salem connected on nine 3-pointers that often sapped any momentum the Tide had started to build.

The Blue Devils had three players score in double figures: Lindsay Goetz led the way with 19, Lillian George had 11 and Ayla Regan added 10. Concord, on the other hand, received a 15-point performance from Sofia Payne, but no one else scored more than seven.

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“Tonight, once we lost the lead and made some mistakes, it kind of unraveled on us,” Darrell said. “We have to go back to the basics and do what we were doing that made us successful. They know what to do. Tonight was a slap in the face.”

Before the subpar on-court performance, Concord had a chance to recognize its three seniors – Rose Layton, Jaylyn Jefferson and Olivia Crawford – before the game, their last regular season home game playing for the Tide.

Darrell said any success the program has had the last few years can’t be discussed without mentioning this class, even if they all might not accumulate the most minutes on the floor.

“They’ve worked so hard,” he said. “They went through the pandemic years, and all that stuff. This year, they had to become leaders. They’ve all stepped up in different roles. … They’ve been huge to this team, and that’s why the success the rest of the way forward will have a lot to do with them too.”

In order for that success to come, the Tide have work to do before a preliminary round playoff game next Tuesday. Ever optimistic, Darrell thinks they can right the ship.

“I think we’re gonna redeem ourselves on Tuesday,” he said. “I think we’ll be fine.”

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