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Basketball: Spain comes up big, but Pinecrest falls 47-37
Aryn Spain
Pinecrest Academy sophomore Aryan Spain brings the ball up the court Friday during the Paladins' 47-37 loss to Tallulah Falls. Photo courtesy Jay Rooney Photography

Aryn Spain cycles through the same routine each time she shoots a free throw. 

Spin the ball, catch it off the bounce, dribble, dribble, spin it again – but don't let it hit the ground this time – stick out the left foot and shoot. 

And more often than not Friday night, Spain's free throws ended the same way, too.

Swish.

Spain led Pinecrest's girls basketball team with 19 points against Tallulah Falls, including a 5-of-6 mark from the free-throw line, though it wasn't enough as the Paladins lost 47-37.

"You know, we really challenged Aryn coming into this game. We've just been trying to get her going a little bit," Pinecrest coach Jonathan Oshinski said. "She had a great year as a freshman last year, and we're starting to see some confidence come from here. Really, it starts with how hard she goes at people, and not just backing off." 

Tallulah Falls scored the first 10 points of the game and led 13-2 at the end of the first quarter.

But Pinecrest (1-3) answered to open the second quarter, and after Spain sank back-to-back buckets to bring the Paladins within striking distance, the Paladins' sophomore became a marked player. 

So, on the next possession, the Indians swarmed Spain in the low post, which gave senior Allie Doerr a chance to connect on a mid-range jumper, making it a 15-13 game with 4:36 left in the second quarter.

Meghan Sullivan
Pinecrest Academy junior Meghan Sullivan, right, fights for possession Friday during the Paladins' 47-37 loss to Tallulah Falls. Photo courtesy Jay Rooney Photography
Spain tied the game 15-15 before Tallulah Falls went back in front, but a 3-pointer by junior Meghan Sullivan inside the final minute of the first half gave Pinecrest a 20-19 lead going into halftime. 

Sullivan finished with nine points and seven rebounds, chipping in six steals for the Paladins. 

Freshman Colleen Sullivan had four points, while Doerr added three and senior Sarah Brown finished with two. 

Tallulah Falls pressed Pinecrest for much of the game, resulting in too many turnovers for comfort.

"They were doing a really nice job splitting double teams, I thought," Oshinski said. "A couple times we got a little carried away and tried to throw some long passes, and when you play a long, athletic team like them, it's going to be tough to make those."

Dynamic freshman Denika Lightbourne finished with 15 points for a balanced Tallulah Falls offense that had four players finish with at least eight points. 

Spain narrowly missed a double-double for the Paladins, pulling down nine rebounds. 

"She's not a freshman anymore; we want her to play strong and we want her to play physical and we want her to play tough in there," Oshinski said. "And once she got going, you saw that. I was really impressed by the way she responded after kind of a slow start."

For Pinecrest, just getting Spain to the free-throw line is half the battle. Oshinski said Spain was at her best as a freshman when she played physically and managed to draw fouls.

The other half – getting those free throws to drop – Spain has already figured out. 

"When she had some fight, she was able to get to the free-throw line, and those were a lot of her biggest games," Oshinski said. "So, just want to keep challenging her to try to work the ball and seek out some contact so she can keep playing as big as she can for us. 

"I mean, she's our biggest player."