Photo: Glencoe High’s Ashley Morgan (11) drives to the basket as North Sand Mountain’s Kayci Christopher defends during the Lady Yellow Jackets’ 65-61 victory in the Northeast Regional Tournament Class 3A girls basketball semifinals last Saturday (Feb. 17) at Jacksonville State. (Gary Wells)
By Chris McCarthy
The Glencoe High girls basketball team crossed off another item on its postseason punchlist last Saturday (Feb. 17) at Jacksonville State.
The Lady Yellow Yellow Jackets rallied from a seven-point fourth quarter deficit for a 65-61 victory over North Sand Mountain in the Class 3A semifinals of the Northeast Regional Tournament at Pete Mathews Coliseum.
For the first time since the 2008-09 season, Glencoe (23-8) advanced to the regional championship game, where the Lady Jackets will face top-ranked Pisgah at 4 p.m.
“Our girls have known since the first week of [last] May, that the regional finals were on Feb. 20 at 4 p.m. and that I expected us to be there,” said Glencoe head coach Daniel Cook. “I know that coaches aren’t supposed to say that and expectations are the root of all heartache, but now here we are for the first time in a while.”
“After losing like we did last year [to an undefeated Plainview team in the regional semifinals], we didn’t want to feel like that again,” said sophomore forward Ashley Morgan.
“Last year we got a taste of what it felt like on the court,” added sophomore guard Abby Vice. “Now, we wanted to win.”
The Lady Jackets found themselves trailing 49-42 with 6:05 remaining in the game. To compound the problem, Glencoe turned the ball over on its next two possessions, giving the Lady Bison the opportunity to extend their lead to double digits and potentially put the game out of reach.
That did not happen. Instead, the Lady Jackets soon seized and maintained the momentum the rest of the way.
NSM failed to score off either Glencoe turnover, and a three-point basket by Breia Little narrowed the gap to a manageable four points.
“I think that was the turning point,” said Glencoe head coach Daniel Cook. “Even when we were down by [several] points, I told the girls during a break that we play this way to win right here in the fourth quarter. Our girls fought and clawed and played hard, and they did everything we’ve been training them to do.”
A pair of free throws from Kenleigh Harper drew the Lady Jackets within two points, and Ashley Morgan’s layup with 4:45 to go tied the game at 49-all.
Twenty seconds later, Aubrey Gray’s basket gave Glencoe its first lead since the closing minutes of the first half. The Lady Jackets ratcheted up the pressure on defense, limiting North Sand Mountain to just two field goals over next three and a half minutes, during which time the Lady Bison committed five turnovers.
NSM (19-10) cut it to four points with 22 seconds to go, but the Lady Bison did not get the ball back until Victoria Reed’s jumper at the buzzer.
“The game was back and forth, but when [Little] hit that [three-pointer], I had a feeling that we could pull through and win,” said Morgan, who led Glencoe with 16 points.
Anna Beth Giles scored 14 points, while Vice added 11. Gray added eight points and Little finished with seven. Morgan and Gray each had eight rebounds, while Giles grabbed seven. Giles also came up with four steals.
Glencoe out-rebounded NSM 49 to 31, including a 25 to 16 margin at the offensive end.
“The best thing about our team is that we rebound the fool out of people, and that goes back to being aggressive and playing hard and getting after it,” said Cook. “I’ve coached (basketball) for 21 years, and this is the best defensive team I’ve had, both on and off the ball,”
Victoria Reed scored 15 points for the Lady Bison, followed by Alexis Leake with 12 and Jaden Leake with 10.
“There’s nothing but good teams left down here, and this game turned out to be everything we’d thought it would be,” said Cook. “We don’t have elite players who are 6-foot [tall] and score 80 points a game. But our girls fight like they’re the third monkey trying to get on Noah’s Ark.”
Six players scored for Glencoe in the first period as the Lady Yellow Jackets ran out to a 14-9 lead. A three-pointer by Little in the opening minute of the second quarter made it 17-12 in favor of Glencoe, but NSM eventually tied the game at 25-25 and took a 30-27 advantage into halftime.
“It was a heck of a game, and I can’t say enough about the resiliency and the way our girls fought today,” said Cook. “I don’t think we’ve been as ready for a game as we are right now [against Pisgah],” said Cook. “They’re pretty good, but the way our girls are playing right now, we can’t wait to get on the court with them.”