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Byrd lifts Lady Panthers over Hill

Brookhaven’s Nikki Byrd had a sore bump on the back of her headFriday night but a thrilling comeback victory over the Jackson JimHill Lady Tigers helped ease the pain. Byrd scored the winningfield goal and then pulled down a key rebound to help the LadyPanthers preserve a hard-fought 31-30 triumph in Division 6-4Aaction.

Byrd claimed the rebound and was knocked down after the LadyTigers had missed 3 field goal attempts in the last 8.5 seconds ofthe game. While the Brookhaven bench erupted in celebration,6-foot-1 Byrd was on the hardwood floor, clutching her head withboth hands and writhing in pain.

“My head hurts,” said Byrd as she stood along the sidelineswatching senior players and cheerleaders receive long-stem rosesand coolers between varsity games. “I was tripped from behind. Ithought it was a foul.”

With 56 seconds left in the contest, Byrd had put the LadyPanthers up 31-29 on a reverse layup, giving Ole Brook its firstlead of the game. Earlier, with 3:07 on the clock, her putbackgained a 29-29 deadlock.

“I didn’t know if it (layup) would go in,” Byrd admitted. “Itwas just a street-ball shot.”

The Lady Tigers had pulled within 1 point, 31-30, when pointguard Larecia Palmer hit the first of 2 free throw attempts with 37seconds left. The Lady Panthers gained possession after the missbut were called for charging near midcourt.

Hill had 27 seconds left to score the winning points but missed3 opportunities before Byrd snared the rebound.

The Lady Panthers improved their record to 10-15 overall and 6-3in the division as they avenged an earlier loss to Hill at Jackson.The Lady Tigers fell to 14-11 and 6-3.

Ole Brook girls coach Billy Holmes watched his girls get off toa sluggish start. They trailed 16-3 at the end of the firstquarter.

“I told our girls we were better than that,” Holmes recalled, assweat saturated his dress shirt. “I told them, ‘Don’t play thescore, play the game.'”

Holmes said he put his team in a box-and-one andtriangle-and-two defenses to slow down Hill’s outside shooting.”Ashley Leggett and Kayla Harris did a good job on thecorners.”

Hill’s Ne’Fisha Anderson had pumped in 9 first-quarter pointsfrom the perimeter, including 1 trey.

The Panthers outscored Hill 8-4 in the second quarter but stilltrailed 20-11 at halftime. They picked up the intensity in thethird frame and pulled within 23-20, limiting the Tigers to just 3points.

In the fourth quarter, Byrd scored 7 of her team-high 9 points.She also had 5 rebounds, teaming with 6-1 freshman teammate SwayzeBlack to dominate the inside game. Black had 7 points and 7rebounds before leg cramps forced her to the bench in the fourthquarter.

“Nikki Byrd made a major contribution tonight,” said CoachHolmes. “Our whole team played hard and never gave up.”

Leggett is the only senior member left on Ole Brook’s squadafter three quit the team earlier in the season.