Comeback sinks Brookhaven girls
MERIDIAN – When you fall behind 9-0, including scoring in yourown goal, you usually don’t win basketball games.
When your post player is 5-foot-6, and your opponents have apair of 6-footers, you usually don’t win basketball games. When yougo 1-for-9 from the free throw line in a key stretch, includingmissing seven straight, you usually don’t win basketball games.
So, it was a good thing for Northeast Lauderdale head coach DanStegall and his Lady Trojans that there was nothing usual abouttheir matchup with Brookhaven in the first round of the Class 4ASouth State tournament Monday night.
“If you can win games on hustle, we are going to win ’em,”Stegall said following his team’s stunning come-from-behind 55-45win at the NEL gym before a sparse, but enthusiastic crowd. “Wedon’t have the best shooters, we don’t have the best ballhandlersand we don’t have any size, but we bust our rear ends.”
The win pushes Northeast into the semifinals of South State thisFriday and Saturday – most likely at Poplarville – and one win awayfrom a trip to the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson and the MHSAAClass 4A State Tournament.
Even when things were going crazy, junior forward Quin Jacksonsaid the Lady Trojans weren’t concerned about losing the game.
“I knew we were going to come back,” said Jackson, who scored 20points in the game, despite driving inside against playerssix-to-eight inches taller. “I just wasn’t worried about it. Wehustled, we do our best on defense, so I wasn’t really worriedabout it.”
Northeast trailed the 25-5 Lady Panthers 14-4 in the firstquarter and 20-11 at one time midway through the second quarterbefore slowly clawing themselves back into the ball game.
While Jackson had trouble getting her shots to fall early in thegame, she just kept on battling and never gave up, finally hittingher stride in the fourth quarter, hitting two big basketsback-to-back to put the Lady Trojans up for good at 41-39 with 3:59to play in the game.
“Quin Jackson is a warrior inside,” Stegall said. “She is5-foot-6, but she won’t quit and she showed them what kind ofplayer she is. She just won’t ever give up.”
And she wouldn’t be intimidated either, driving right atBrookhaven’s twin towers.
“I’ve been doing that ever since I’ve been playing – trying toplay against the boys and playing against girls 6-2 and 6-3,” shesaid. “It doesn’t bother me (getting her shots blocked). I’m usedto getting it done. I’m what, 5-6, and they are 6-3. I know they’vegot an advantage over me, plus their arms are longer.”
While Jackson certainly did her job, pounding the boardstime-after-time against the bigger Lady Panthers, she certainlywasn’t alone.
Shaquita Bell also took it right to the bigger BHS girls,scoring 15 points and pulling down key rebounds as well.
Crystal Hopson scored eight points for NEL, while lone seniorKeshia Sanders hit six straight free throws down the stretch, asthe Lady Trojans went 10-for-12 from the line when it mattered, toice the win.
“I just did what the coach said and came up with a routine andkept on doing it,” Sanders said of her success at the line, thathelped fend off a Brookhaven comeback attempt. “I just hadconfidence in my shot and I saw that everybody else was missing soI knew it was up to me to put it in.”
The win pushes Northeast Lauderdale to 22-13 on the season. TheLady Trojans got the 2001-2002 season off to a 5-9 start, beforeturning things around and eventually winning the District 5-4Atitle. Northeast has now won eight straight games.
The Lady Panthers (24-5) were led by junior center Ayana Tillmanwith 20 points and 11 rebounds. Anna Autman had 7 boards and 2blocks.
Playmaker Aneidra Stanton had 11 points, 2 steals and 3assists.
In the fourth quarter, NE Lauderdale made 21 free throws, going21-for-25.
“Free throws were decisive,” said Brookhaven coach Ronald Gill.”We were six points up with two minutes left to go. We couldn’t geta break.
“We had our chances at the end but we didn’t take care of theball.”