Photo: Hokes Bluff’s Margaret Elizabeth Wetzel brings the ball upcourt during the Lady Eagles’ 56-29 victory over White Plains in the Class 4A, Area 12 girls basketball tournament semifinals on Tuesday, Feb. 6. (Alex Chaney)
By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
Class 4A, No. 6 Hokes Bluff jumped out to an early lead and never looked back in defeating White Plains, 56-29, in the semifinals of the Class 4A, Area 12 girls basketball tournament on Tuesday (Feb. 6) in Hokes Bluff.
The Lady Eagles (21-7) forced seven turnovers in the first quarter and started the game on a 15-0 run. By the time the Lady Wildcats settled in, the game was already out of reach.
White Plains responded with a 7-0 run and trailed 15-7 after the first quarter, but an Amanda Noah three-point basket extended Hokes Bluff’s lead to 11. The Lady Wildcats didn’t get any closer than nine points for the remainder of the game.
Hokes Bluff carried a 29-14 lead into the locker room at halftime, and the lead blossomed to 22 points by the end of the third quarter.
Noah led the way with 22 points and five rebounds and while connecting on five 3-pointers for the game. The Lady Eagles hit 10 3-pointers as a team. and
Head coach Jason Shields said his team took quality shots and moved the ball better than it had all season.
“There’s a big difference between getting shots and taking shots,” Shields said. “If you get shots, you’re going to make more of them. If you just take shots, nobody knows where to rebound and you don’t know if it’s a good shot or not. I thought we did a good job of getting shots instead of taking shots.”
Kristen Shields scored nine points for the Lady Eagles, while Logan Black and Madison Wolfe chipped in seven points each. Haley Simpson led both teams with seven assists.
Landry Bussey led White Plains with 10 points.
Hokes Bluff will host Jacksonville on Friday, Feb. 9 at 6 p.m. for the area championship. The two teams split a pair of meetings in the regular season.
If Lady Eagles win, they will host a sub-regional game on Monday, Feb. 12 against either D.A.R. or North Jackson for a chance to play at Jacksonville State in the Northeast Regional Tournament. If they lose in the area finals, they will play the winner of that matchup on the road.
Shields said his team must play fundamentally sound if it is going to win the area championship.
“Keep them in front of you and box them out,” he said. “[Jacksonville is] very quick and very athletic. We’ve got to do all the fundamentals well. We can’t turn the ball over. We have to stay in front of them. We pretty much have to have a perfect defensive game without reaching and slapping. We have to do the basics. If you do the basics, it at least gives you a chance.”