Going to the ‘Ham!

Published 12:02 am Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Straughn girls coach Scott Kinsaul, along with the rest of the lady Tigers, celebrate the 61-56 win over Abbeville at the Class 3A South Regional Finals in Dothan Saturday afternoon. |  Andrew Garner/Star-News

Straughn girls coach Scott Kinsaul, along with the rest of the lady Tigers, celebrate the 61-56 win over Abbeville at the Class 3A South Regional Finals in Dothan Saturday afternoon. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Lady Tigers beat Abbeville 61-56 Saturday in regional final

DOTHAN — Straughn needed to hang on for just a few minutes on Saturday.

Abbeville started a late-charging attack against the Lady Tigers as it took advantage of the local team’s foul trouble.

However, SHS didn’t waiver to win 61-56 and claim its second-straight Class 3A South Regional Championship at the Dothan Civic Center.

SHS coach Scott Kinsaul said he knew it was going to come down to how well the girls handled the press, which was led by AHS guards Nakia Kincey and Jasmine Griffin.

“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to Abbeville,” Kinsaul said. “Those two guards (Kincey and Griffin) are unreal and the pressure they’re able to put on you. They’re just so good and so athletic.”

The victory improved No. 2 Straughn to 28-1 overall and the Lady Tigers a berth to also play in their second-straight Final 48 at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex this week. SHS plays top-ranked and defending state champion Lauderdale County on Thursday at 3 p.m. in the semifinals.

Kinsaul said it wasn’t easy to get back to playing at the state tournament, especially this year.

“Last year, it was kind of unexpected for us to make it,” the coach said. “This year, the first rankings came out and we’re No. 3. All of a sudden, all the pressure is on us and everybody is expecting us to make it back.

“I told them it’s hard to get up there, and it’s hard sometimes to get back,” he said. “I just told them how proud I was of them for doing what they had to do to win again.”

During the game, SHS found itself in foul trouble early and often, which put a damper on how the Lady Tigers could play late in the game.

Abbeville, who used its full-court press for the entire match, kept the pressure up in the last 2:55 of the fourth period.

What led to the late surge was tournament Most Valuable Player Jacie Williamson fouling out. This enabled the Yellow Jackets to take advantage on the inside and foul line.

AHS went on a 10-3 run in the final few minutes, but the Lady Tigers never wavered down the stretch.

“I’m 45 pounds overweight, and I don’t like games like that,” Kinsaul said about the game’s close nature. “I like the easy ones.”

Other than Williamson who led the team with 23 points, two other Straughn Lady Tigers finished in double figures. Katelyn Kinsaul and Janelle Nurse scored 11 points each.

With a 27-24 lead at the break, Straughn made some needed adjustments to spread Abbeville out in the third period, which allowed Williamson to get drives to the lane. The Lady Tigers outscored the Lady Yellow Jackets 20-10 to take a commanding 47-34 lead going into the fourth.

After making two free throws to start the third, Williamson got a bucket on an assist from Paige Taylor to push the lead to 31-24. The junior forward later got another assist from Brentley Armstrong low for a bucket and a 33-26 advantage.

Williamson later got the back-end of a pair with 4:54 left in the third, and launched another drive for a 36-27 lead.

Nurse, who showed her presence early with a 3-pointer in the first, swished a clutch trey with 3:17 to go to put SHS ahead by a wide, 40-27 margin.

Kinsaul said the shot Nurse hit was a designed play.

“It was a set play we ran to her because I love to see her shoot the basketball,” the coach said about the junior who typically stays calm as a cucumber.

“I just felt confident (in the shot),” Nurse said. “I wasn’t nervous.”

Coming off the bench, Kristen Peavy got a lay in off of a Williamson pass for a 42-27 lead, and the Lady Tigers held on in the final moments of the third period to enter the fourth ahead by 13.

Katelyn Kinsaul said Abbeville was much-improved compared to last season.

“They have gotten a lot better since last year,” she said. “So, it was a lot more pressure on me to get the ball and get it to Jacie on the inside.”

Abbeville’s 10-3 run in the fourth was led by Griffin, Kincey, Nakireyah Truitt and Deja Oliver.

In the first period, the Lady Yellow Jackets ook an early lead in the first period on a drive from Griffin for a 3-0 advantage.

The Lady Yellow Jackets later pushed it to 6-3 with 4:40 left in the opener on a 3-pointer from Griffin, who finished with 22 points to lead her team.

A short time later, Kinsaul went from East to West on an inbounds play for a layup to cut it to 6-5 to help start a 7-0 run.

Nurse put her team ahead 8-6 with her first of three 3-pointers to give SHS a 8-6 lead at the 3:40 mark of the first.

Armstrong completed the needed run on a layup to give SHS a 10-6 advantage.

Nurse later got her team ahead 13-8 on another trey, and with a late AHS surge, the Lady Tigers led 13-11 after the first period.

Armstrong got an assist to Williamson to start the second, and Kinsaul made the back-end of a pair for a 16-11 lead.

Griffin made a runner to cut it to 16-13 with 6:20 left in the first half.

Kinsaul later got a steal and drove to the paint for a 18-15 lead with a little less than five minutes to go in the first half.

Abbeville kept pressing and later tied the game at 21-21 on two free throws from Kincey.

Williamson scored four points in the final minutes of a 6-3 run for the Lady Tigers.

For the game, SHS shot 47 percent from the field, and 44 percent from the arch. The Lady Tigers went 25-for-41 from the line at 61 percent.

Kinsaul said he was proud of how well his bench players stepped up to give a hand late in the game.

“We found a way to win,” he said. “Jacie fouled out with three minutes to go, and Paige got her fourth (foul) with no less than a minute to go in the third quarter. Kristen Peavy did a great job; Katie (Lindsey) did a great job. It was just a team win.”

Nurse and Kinsaul joined Williamson on the All-Tournament team. Kincey and Griffin made it from AHS, and Destiny Samuels was selected from Cottage Hill Christian.