By Chris McCarthy/Editor
A seven-point output in the third quarter came back to haunt the Hokes Bluff girls basketball team in a 59-49 loss to Madison Academy last Monday (Feb. 20) in the Northeast Regional Tournament semifinals at Jacksonville State.
Starting the second half with a three-point lead, the Lady Eagles (28-5) managed just two field goals during the third period. Not helping matters was senior guard Tylynn Register missing for more than three minutes of the quarter after being whistled for her third foul. The Lady Mustangs ran off a 10-3 stretch that gave them a 36-31 lead after 24 minutes.
Hokes Bluff remained within striking distance for most of the final quarter, cutting the lead to 52-45 on Register’s foul shot with a minute to go. Logan Black scored eight straight points – including a pair of three-pointers – to help keep the Lady Eagles in the game.
Madison Academy (32-1) was in the double bonus free throw situation by that point, however. The Lady Mustangs went 7-for-8 at the line following Register’s free throw, and respective lay-ups from Kendall Johnson and Amanda Noah were not enough to pull out the win.
“We fought hard, and I can’t complain about our effort,” said Hokes Bluff head coach Jason Shields. “We had a three-minute spurt coming out of the second half where we turned the ball over and gave then easy looks. That run [by Madison Academy] changed the momentum of the game, but we did pretty much keep it within 10 [points] the rest of the way. We also had 14 turnovers, and [Madison Academy] scored 12 points off of those. That’s the difference in the game. We did everything we could do to get in done, but we came up just a little bit short.”
Madison Academy shot 81 percent (13-for-16) at the foul line in the fourth quarter, including a 6-for-6 effort from freshman guard Jaden Langford. She finished with a game-high 21 points.
“When you have to foul, sometimes it ends up in the hands of a person that you don’t want to go to the line,” said Shields. “But that’s the name of the game when it’s close at the end. You have to make your free throws, and that’s what [Madison Academy] did.”
Johnson led the Lady Eagles with 12 points along with six rebounds. Black went 3-for-3 from three-point range on the way to 11 points. Noah added nine points, followed by Sydney Ball with eight and Register with seven.
Destinee McGhee added 15 points for Madison Academy, while Jasmine Gracie chipped in 12.
Both Noah and Ball nailed three-point baskets during the first quarter to help the Lady Eagles go up 12-10. Hokes Bluff then went 6-for-8 at the free throw line in the second period en route to a 24-21 lead at halftime.
“I thought we did a good job with our halfcourt defense all game long,” said Shields. “Anyone we play against will have to shoot from the outside and work to get a rebounds, and I think we did that today.”
But a pair of baskets by Langford in the first minute of the second half put the Lady Mustangs ahead for good, and Hokes Bluff could not overcome its offensive struggles in the third quarter.
Shields pointed out that the team’s three seniors – Johnson, Register and Ball – won 100 games in their four years on the varsity.
“I’ve been coaching for 19 years, and that’s the most wins of senior group has ever had,” he said. “Twenty-five wins a year is pretty good, and I think they’ve won all four of their county championships. They’ve also won three out of four area tournaments and made it [to the regional tournament] three out of their four years. They’ve done a great job, and eventually we’ll do what we need to do to get good enough to get past this wall we’re at.”