No revenge for BHS

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, March 5, 2008

JACKSON — Bent on revenge, the Brookhaven Lady Panthers pushedunbeaten powerhouse Indianola Gentry to its limits Tuesday in theMHSAA Class 4A State Tournament semifinals. Sophomore guardBrizannai Washington provided the heroics for the Lady Rams,scoring 32 points in her team’s 76-69 overtime victory againstBrookhaven.

Washington, a 5-foot-6 sharpshooter, scored 9 of her team’spoints in the 4-minute overtime and the Rams (37-0) remainedunbeaten, winning their 77th straight game. They’ll face YazooCounty Friday night in the championship finals in MississippiColiseum.

An estimated crowd of 2,800 watched Indianola knock BHS out ofthe state tournament for a third straight year.

Washington smiled and shrugged her shoulders when asked aboutthe state tournament pressure she was facing for the first time.She sacked 2 treys and made 15 of 20 free throw attempts in thegame.

“I wasn’t nervous,” said Washington. “We shoot free throws everyday in practice.”

Brookhaven (31-7), out to avenge last season’s title game lossto Indianola, led by as much as 8 points, 42-34 on Swayze Black’srebound and putback with 1:37 left in the third quarter.

Black, a 6-foot-3 center/forward who signed with LSU, had aspectacular game with 30 points and 8 rebounds. Senior teammateNikki Byrd, a 6-2 post, encountered early foul trouble and sat out13 and a half minutes of the 32-minute regulation game.

“I felt like we could win the game,” said Black. “It could havegone either way. I had to step up.”

Byrd, an Ole Miss signee, finished with 23 points and 6rebounds. She scored her team’s only trey as BHS claimed leads of15-13 at the quarter and 30-27 at halftime. Byrd picked up herthird foul with 4:28 left in the first half.

“I think we brought our A-game today,” said Byrd, outside herteam’s dressing room. “I came out too strong and it showed,”referring to early foul trouble.

It was the third straight year for Indianola to eliminate BHSfrom the state tournament.

Ole Brook coach Fred Craft said she was proud of her team’sdetermined effort. “You could see our girls wanted it. We weren’tready to go home. We stuck with our game plan. We played hard anddid our best.”

Craft complimented the Rams and their depth. “Down the stretch,they outmanned us. They stayed so calm.

Looking at Indianola, Craft said she was impressed by theperimeter players. “My scouting report said they didn’t have anyoutside shooting. Washington is tough and she’s a very good outsideshooter.”

The Rams sacked 4 treys in the game. Point guard JerricaCrawford scored 14 points and forward Brittany Crawford netted11.

Veronica Walker, Indianola’s 6-foot All-State post player,finished with 15 points and 4 rebounds. She also hit a trey.

“I knew Brookhaven has real big girls,” said Walker. “We hadplayed them before. I knew if we wanted to rebound, we would haveto block out.”

Walker said the large crowd of enthusiastic fans helped her teamprevail. “It felt like a home game.”

Although BHS outrebounded the Rams 21-14, Indianola held adecisive advantage at the free throw line. They made 25 of 39 freeshots compared to Brook’s 16 of 23.

Indianola coach Charles Williams said he was confident his teamcould erase the 8-point, third-quarter deficit. “I knew we couldcome back. If you don’t, we are not much of a team.”

In the final minute of regulation, senior post Whitley Shannon’sputback gained BHS a 61-61 deadlock with 7 second left on theclock. Fourteen seconds earlier, a layup by Jerrica Crawford hadput her team on top 61-59.