Glenelg Country sophomore Ashlyn Bender talks about the Dragons' comeback victory over Franklin at the Public vs Private Challenge at McDonogh on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019.
With injuries and schedule complications depleting its roster over the last two weeks, Glenelg Country has had to dig deep into its bench and rely on some new young faces to step up as leaders.
Sophomore Ashlyn Bender is among those who have taken the opportunity and ran with it.
On Saturday at the Public vs Private Challenge against Franklin, the Dragons’ sharp-shooting combo-guard scored a team-high 16 points to help guide a comeback from down double digits in the first half en route to pulling out a 43-38 win.
It’s the sixth straight game she has scored in double figures after scoring 10 or more just three times in the team’s first nine contests. Taylor Denny and Caroline Haynes also contributed nine points apiece in the victory over the Indians.
“We’re down a lot of people, but that just means we need other people to step up like they did today,” Glenelg Country coach Will Harper said. “[As for Ashlyn], she’s just coming into her own and it’s a beautiful thing. She’s only going to get better.”
Bender, who hit four threes between the final three quarters, said she’s learning to embrace her role as a go-to-player since the team’s leading scorer Taylor Gillis went out with a concussion four games ago.
“Me personally, I’ve definitely had to step up and I think that has really helped with my confidence,” she said. “I’ve been looking to take a lot more shots, which has helped me score a lot more.”
Glenelg Country (9-6) needed every bit of Bender’s scoring against Franklin, which raced out to a 15-4 lead in the opening 10 minutes behind a balanced attack spearheaded by senior guard Dominique Doss (20 points).
The Indians hit a couple outside shots, dominated in the paint and played swarming defense during the first quarter and early stages of the second. But the Dragons finally began to settle in and managed to chip away at their deficit, climbing back to within seven points at halftime, 25-18.
“First and foremost the message was to rebound because we were getting outhustled on the boards early on. And after that, I thought if we started pushing the ball we had the ability to get some easy buckets in transition. Walking it up was playing to their favor,” Harper said. “[Ashlyn] hitting a couple big ones in the second quarter also was huge.”
The Glenelg Country surge continued in the third quarter, with a 15-4 run to open the period helping the Dragons grab their first lead of the afternoon at 33-29 with just under a minute left before the fourth quarter.
Doss did help Franklin rally and retake the lead early in the final quarter, but ultimately Glenelg Country’s momentum was just too much to slow down. Denny and Haynes joined Bender with key baskets down the stretch to help pull away for the victory.