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Lady Bears defeated in MHSAA 2A finals by narrow margin

A dream season ended just short of a golden ball on Friday afternoon as the West Lincoln Lady Bears (26-6) were beaten 39-33 by the Newton High Lady Tigers (29-2) in the MHSAA 2A state finals.

A large West Lincoln contingent of fans saw Newton jump up 6-0 early as the Lady Bears struggled to find their range in the Mississippi Coliseum. What kept the green and white in the game was the play of senior forward Katelyn Dickerson who scored a game high 17 points.

Dickerson scored both first quarter baskets as Newton led 10-4 after the first eight minutes. Foul trouble would hit early as Dickerson, Bailey Wilson and Skylar Hall would all have two fouls apiece within the game’s first eight minutes. WL coach Brooks Smith tried his best to rotate players to negate the foul trouble, but Wilson would pick up her third foul late in the second quarter.

Newton led 21-11 at halftime with Dickerson scoring eight first-half points for WL as the Lady Bears looked nervous at times and struggled with turnovers. Newton didn’t press in the full-court but used speed and quickness in their half court to disrupt the offense. West Lincoln finished with 17 turnovers, as did Newton.

West Lincoln showed fight in the second half as they settled in to play better basketball. A pair of Dickerson free throws cut the lead to 23-18 with 3:52 remaining in the third quarter, but Newton would respond on the next possession with a 3-pointer by McKinley Ware.

Another Dickerson basket would cut it to 26-20, but Newton would answer with a Nia McCalphia basket. McCalphia, a 5-foot-6 senior, scored a team high 12 points to lead Newton.

Newton grew their lead to 10 points in the third quarter before a long Megan Gerald 3-pointer just before the buzzer cut the lead to 32-25 heading to the fourth quarter.

West Lincoln came out of their zone defense in the fourth quarter to keep Newton from holding the ball. With under a minute left West Lincoln made one more run when a Hall 3-pointer reduced the deficit to 38-32.

Newton turned the ball over on their next possession, but Hall missed another deep shot that could have cut the lead to a single possession. Up 39-32, Newton twice turned the ball over, but West Lincoln couldn’t take advantage.

Hall finished with six points. Gerald scored three points and made three assists. Wilson scored two points and Brittany Sturkey scored five points.

The Lady Bears shot 31.8 percent from the floor in the game. Newton shot 56.3 percent and scored 34 of their 39 points in the paint.

“Thanks to coach Brooks helping us get here,” said Dickerson. “I’m proud of us getting this opportunity.”

The championship game appearance was the first for the Lady Bears since 1957. The Lady Bears lose Dickerson, Hall, Gerald, Elizabeth Stogner, Mattie Floyd, and Makayla Shelton to graduation.

“I’m proud of what we accomplished this season,” said Smith. “The seniors set the bar high and I hope this leads to bigger and better things in the future. I had a great group of ladies both on and off the court. County champs, back-to-back region champs, and playing for a state title all this season, I’m very proud to coach this group of girls.”