Hokes Bluff girls come up short in regional semifinals

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By Chris McCarthy/Editor

Due to Hannah’s Evans’ foul trouble, Hokes Bluff High played approximately a quarter and a half against Locust Fork on Saturday (Feb. 14) without the services of their senior point guard and leading scorer.

The Lady Eagles could not overcome those Evans-less minutes, falling to Locust Fork, 60-43, in the Class 4A semifinals of Northeast Regional girls basketball tournament at Jacksonville State.

Evans, who finished with 12 points and four rebounds in 20 minutes of action, picked up her fourth foul at the 5:02 mark of the third quarter. Hokes Bluff trailed 35-27 at that point, and by the time Evans returned at the start of the fourth period, the Lady Hornets (19-11) had built a 43-30 lead after outscoring the Lady Eagles 7 to 3 in the third.

Evans’ return, however, lit a fire under her team. After Kim Horton’s basket at 7:20 gave Locust Fork a 15-point advantage, Hokes Bluff put together an 11-3 run that pulled the Lady Eagles within 46-41 with 3:50 left in the game. Sydney Ball accounted for the first six points of the above stretch, while Evans polished off the run with a 3-point basket and layup.

That was the last basket that Evans would make, as she was whistled for her fifth and final foul with 3:46 left in the contest. With Evans on the bench, Locust Fork closed out the game on a 14-2 run to end Hokes Bluff’s season at 22-10.

The Lady Eagles didn’t help their cause with a subpar shooting performance, going 38 percent (16-for-42) from the field and 18 percent (2-for-11) from three-point range. In addition, Hokes Bluff’s 21 turnovers led to 21 Lady Hornet points.

“They went to pressing us after Hannah went out, and we haven’t had to do that all year,” said Hokes Bluff head coach Jason Shields. “We’re normally a little bit better around her than we were today, but [Locust Fork] had a good game plan. We didn’t get good passing angles today, and most of our turnovers were self-inflected. We didn’t do a good job all game of putting pressure on the ball, and we didn’t take advantage of the way the whole concept of game was being called. When you get over here (in the regional tournament), you better be able to play physical, and we missed our chances to physically get after them on the full-court end.”

Ball led the Lady Eagles with 13 points, followed by Tylynn Register and Amanda Noah each added five. Ball also had 11 rebounds, while Noah had five. 

“It was rough (playing with four fouls), because my biggest goal when I came back in was not to foul,” said Evans. “But it’s part of the game, and it happens.”

Locust Fork’s perimeter game was clicking in the early going, as the Lady Hornets knocked down five 3-pointers – three by Ashlyn Adkins and two by Madison Cater – to give Locust Fork a 25-15 lead after eight minutes of play. 

  “That wasn’t our plan to let them stand and shoot 3-pointers,” said Shields. “We let them get a lead there and we never could get back over the hump. Basketball’s a four-quarter game, and we played three and a half today.”

The Lady Eagles trailed by double digits for much of the second quarter, and it didn’t help matters when Evans went to the bench with her third foul with just under three minutes to go before halftime.

Instead of wilting, however, Hokes Bluff kept the Lady Hornet offense scoreless from the field over the final 1:50, and Noah’s two foul shots with six seconds remaining pulled the Lady Eagles within 35-27 at intermission.

Adkins paced Locust Fork 21 points, followed by Janie Hudson with 16 and Horton with 15. 

“We weren’t prepared for the skill level we need in order to be able to perform at this level,” said Shields. “We’re a young team in that we have three ninth graders that we try to play a pretty good bit with just one senior, so maybe this experience will help us for next year. I tell our girls all the time that it’s not all about winning; it’s about giving a winning effort.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of good players over the years, and Hannah’s definitely one of those top players,” added Shields. “She’s grown so much as a person. I always try to learn from my players, and Hannah has taught me some things.” 

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