ELITE EIGHT BOUND: Lady Tigers hold off New Brockton in regional semi-finals

Published 12:00 pm Monday, February 19, 2024

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Straughn built a big lead and withstood a late New Brockton comeback bid for a 50-44 win in a 3A South Regional girls’ semi-final at Garrett Coliseum on Friday, Feb. 16.

Maddie Williamson runs an offensive play for the Lady Tigers against Reese Eddins of the Lady Gamecocks.

The Lady Tigers earned their first trip to the regional final since the 2013-2014 season and moved their record to 21-7 overall. The Lady Gamecocks had their 12-game winning streak snapped and finished the year 20-6.

“New Brockton showed up ready to compete. Coach Harbuck has some very talented players who can move the ball and shoot from anywhere. The game was close the entire time, and in my opinion, that’s how it should be during the regional tournament. It just shows that both teams deserve to be there. We had some much-needed made shots in the third to keep us alive and some major stops on defense in the fourth to keep them from taking the lead. Overall, we got the win and now prepare for our next game on Wednesday against Cottage Hill. As always, I’m so proud of this team and how hard they work to get better every day,” SHS Head Coach Calen Lowery said.

Bryleigh McBride swished a quick three for an early 3-0 lead. Ariana Smith evened the score at 3-3 before Allyx Williamson made a layup. Ora Hall then went three-of-three at the line and extended the margin to 8-3 as Reese Eddins cut the deficit to 8-5 with a jumper. Straughn responded with a ten-point swing led by four from A. Williamson. Aubrey Pittman and Hall also found the hoop for two, while Maddie Williamson knocked down a jumper for an 18-5 lead with 1:42 to go in the first. New Brockton closed the gap to 18-11 after one behind four from Eddins and two by Smith.

Aubrey Pittman puts two points on the scoreboard for Straughn as Emily Grace Peeples defends for New Brockton.

Blakeley Smith and McBride each made a free throw for a 20-11 margin early in the second. Hall stretched the lead to 22-13 with 5:09 remaining until halftime before the Lady Gamecocks rallied back. A. Smith had six points including a three, while Eddins brought the score to 24-23 on a pair of foul shots. B. Smith had the next three points as A. Williamson gave the Lady Tigers a four-point lead with two. Gabriella Eubanks had a free throw as the halftime score stood at 29-26.

B. Smith opened the second half with six of the initial eight points. Casey Williams made a jumper and sliced the gap to 34-30 with 5:23 left in the third. After B. Smith scored the next four points, Eubanks and Eddins drew New Brockton with 38-34 at the 2:55 mark. A. Williamson capped the scoring in the frame with a tip-in and gave Straughn a 42-36 lead after three.

Eddins hit a fast jumper, and A. Smith made the score 42-41 with a three less than a minute into the fourth. A. Williamson and Hall answered with back-to-back buckets as the Lady Tigers took a 46-41 lead with 5:48 remaining. A. Smith made a jumper and kept the Lady Gamecocks within five before Hall ended the scoring with a free throw.

Straughn’s Allyx Williamson attempts a jumper against New Brockton’s Gabriella Eubanks. Williamson finished with 13 points for the Lady Tigers.

B. Smith paced Straughn with 18 points in the six-point win. A. Williamson followed with 13, and Hall earned 11. A. Smith led New Brockton with 18 points. Eddins also had a double-digit showing at 17.

Blakeley Smith converts a layup against the New Brockton defense. Smith led Straughn with 18 points including 13 in the second half of the Lady Tigers’ regional semi-final win.

“Tonight was a very big night with it being win or go home. We came out hot and started to slow down going into halftime. I knew I wanted to step up for my team because none of us were ready for our season to be cut short. We’ve been grinding hard all week in practice, and I’ve never seen such dedication from every single player. Our team chemistry this season has been unmatched and really showed during the game. Like Proverbs 27:17 says, ‘Iron sharpens iron,’ we are constantly pushing each other to be our best. Whether it’s offering advice, rallying from the bench, or bringing the energy on the court, we’ve got each other’s backs. I couldn’t ask for a better group of teammates and am ecstatic we’re moving forward. See you at the Elite Eight,” B. Smith said.

Straughn will meet Cottage Hill (14-13) in the South Regional championship game on Wednesday, Feb. 21, at 12:30 p.m. CHCA advanced to the regional final with a 40-24 win over Houston Academy in the other 3A girls’ semi-final.