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Americus girls top Lee County in Fab 5 showdown

Americus-Sumter's Ashley Howard scored a career-high 29 points Monday night to lead The Herald No. 2 Lady Panthers to win against No. 5 Lee County, which was dropped out of the Fab 5 Poll after the loss.

Americus-Sumter's Ashley Howard scored a career-high 29 points Monday night to lead The Herald No. 2 Lady Panthers to win against No. 5 Lee County, which was dropped out of the Fab 5 Poll after the loss.

AMERICUS — Lady Panthers senior guard Ashley Howard hit driving jumper after driving jumper in the lane Monday night en route to a career-high 29 points.

Howard was a little caught off guard by the staggering point total after Herald No. 3 Americus-Sumter downed previous Herald No. 5 Lee County, 65-61, in the Lady Panthers’ Holiday Classic.

“Whoa,” Howard said after hearing her new career-high number. “I did not know I had 29 points.”

That’s alright, though. Nobody really knows who’s going to roll up the points for the one-loss Lady Panthers these days.

Americus improved to 8-1 with Monday’s win after suffering their first loss a few days earlier to Tift County.

Some nights it’s Kayla Bowens. Other nights it could be Howard or Kahler Fletcher, or maybe a double-double from Tanyette Hill.

“On any given night, one of the four can score (big numbers),” Lady Panthers head coach Evelyn Wright said.

Lee County (4-5), which dropped out of the Herald Fab 5 Poll after the loss, trailed just 31-30 after Maggie O’Connor’s jumper with 5:31 left in the third quarter before Americus went on a 13-0 run to finish out the quarter. When Fletcher took a fast-break pass from Bowens and laid it in, the Lady Panthers had shot out to a 44-30 lead. Howard scored 10 of her 29 in third quarter alone.

“We are so close,” Lady Trojans head coach Fran McPherson said. “We’re just not finishing right now. I thought they outhustled us in the third quarter.”

Lee County was led by Herald Super 6er Daqueena Moore, who had a monster game of her own, with 27 points and six rebounds despite being double-teamed most of the night. Lee County rallied again in the fourth and pulled to within 47-42 on Natalie Shiver’s 3-pointer with 2:47 left.

“They are bigger than we are, but they play for four quarters,” Wright said of Lee County. “We wanted to run (their bigger post players) and push the floor.”

Americus-Sumter finished things off late, going 9-for-12 at the charity stripe in the final three minutes. Fletcher and Hill added six points in the Lady Panthers’ win, just two nights after a lackluster performance handed them their first loss of the season.

“(The loss to Tift County) woke us up,” Wright said. “It was a rude awakening.”

Added Howard, “We had the big head, but we learned our lesson from that.”

Americus finishes the holiday tournament at home today against Macon County at 7 p.m.

The Lady Trojans also got 10 points from Shiver and nine from O’Connor in Monday’s loss. Lee County, which has played a number of playoff teams from last year in its non-region schedule, faces another one today at 4 p.m. against Mundy’s Mill in Americus.

“There’s a good side to it (because we) know we can compete,” McPherson said. “The hard side is we’ve got to finish.”