Second half turnovers the difference in BA girls’ loss

Published 11:41 am Wednesday, December 13, 2023

The 2022-2023 season ended for the Brookhaven Academy girls’ basketball team in the semifinals of the MAIS Overall Tournament with a last second 35-34 loss to Presbyterian Christian School of Hattiesburg.

The 6A Bobcats of PCS are one of the six largest schools in the MAIS and have a strong program every year under head coach Drew Smith.

On Saturday in John R. Gray Gymnasium, the schools met for the first time this season and a back-and-forth matchup went the way of PCS 52-45.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The game was closer than that final score might indicate, as Brookhaven Academy built a seven-point lead in the third quarter, only to see that lead shrink away after a rash of turnovers.

“Committing 24 fouls and having 22 turnovers against a quality opponent like PCS is a bad combo,” said BA head coach Ron Kessler. “We need to value the basketball more and can’t foul while attempting to play great defense. Several of our fouls were frustration fouls after we missed shots or committed turnovers. We need to do a better job of moving right on to the next play and putting the mistake out of our mind immediately.”

Presbyterian Christian moved to 11-2 with the win. The only losses of the season thus far for PCS are both to MHSAA 6A member Hancock High (56-41, 43-35). Hancock High (10-0) is coached by West Lincoln alum Jamie Sisco.

Brookhaven Academy is now 13-4 this season after the loss.

Presbyterian Christian led 13-10 after the first quarter and it was a similar nip and tuck battle through the rest of the first half.

Just as the second quarter buzzer sounded, BA freshman guard Anne Rylea Thurman was fouled on a drive to the basket. Thurman sank both free throws to cut the PCS advantage to 22-21 at the half.

Thurman kept that momentum going for the Cougars after the break as she hit a floater near the basket on the opening possession of the third quarter.

The Cougar offense began to click like it hadn’t previously in the game.

Senior guard Regan Fortenberry hit a runner, Thurman knocked down a corner 3-pointer and junior forward Ainsley Orr grabbed a basket on a put-back.

Thurman hit another 3-pointer, this one was extra deep, off an assist from junior guard Ella Smith and that bucket put the Cougars ahead 33-26 as the Cougars seemed to be solidly in control.

Fortenberry went to the bench with four fouls soon after the lead grew to seven. She starts alongside her senior classmate Mallory Martin, Thurman, Smith and Orr.

PCS tried to go with a full-court pressure once Fortenberry went to the bench, but Smith drove straight down the middle of the court and dropped off an assist for senior guard Zoey Cade.

Presbyterian senior guard Addyson Sherer is among the best players in the MAIS ranks, she’s signed to next play at William Carey University. Sherer was quiet for much of the game on Saturday, but with Fortenberry on the bench, she began to find more room to operate.

Sherer hit a jumper from the free-throw line to cut the BA lead to 35-30 and that’s how things stood going into the fourth quarter. She then grabbed a steal and made a layup to make the score 35-32 after the opening seconds of the fourth quarter.

Fortenberry, back in the game with four fouls, scored on a nice pass from Orr to put BA back up 37-32.

And that’s about where things started to go wrong for the Cougars, with six minutes remaining in the game. The Cougars turned the ball over four straight times and in that stretch, Fortenberry fouled out.

PCS did start to pressure the ball more, but many of the BA mistakes were of the self-inflicted variety. Presbyterian closed the game on a 13-5 run over those final six minutes.

Sherer had a lot to do with the visiting Bobcats coming back. She caught a pass that was aimed straight for her shoes and brought the ball up in one motion to shoot a 3-pointer.

The soft rims inside of Gray Gymnasium were kind to her as the ball took a shooter’s roll on its way through the hoop to put PCS ahead 39-37.

Martin hit a 3-pointer on the next possession to give BA a 40-39 lead.

Later in the fourth, Sherer nailed another 3-pointer, this one with a hand in her face. The Bobcats went ahead 42-40 for a lead they’d not relinquish.

PCS plays a schedule packed with tough competition. They’ve got blowout wins over MHSAA schools Pass Christian, West Harrison, D’Iberville, Ocean Springs and Bay High. They’ll play twice this month against another public-school program that contends for titles every year, Choctaw Central High School.

The Bobcats are also slated to play in the Sandestin Hilton Beach Blowout over the holidays and will come back from Christmas with a Jan. 2 home game against MHSAA 7A power Harrison Central.

Brookhaven Academy continues its path to being battle tested too, the defending 5A state champion Cougars next play on Thursday at MAIS 6A Jackson Academy. Kessler’s squad will also play at 6A Jackson Prep on Dec. 20. District play begins for the Cougars on Jan. 2 at Parklane Academy.