Lady Eagles rally too late

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 20, 2002

[02/16/02] NATCHEZ One good quarter wasn’t enough for the Porters Chapel Academy Lady Eagles to overcome three bad ones against Trinity.

PCA, which committed 22 turnovers and shot just 20 percent from the field through the first three quarters, rallied in the fourth to cut a 20-point deficit to seven Friday afternoon.

But Trinity’s Becky Bass hit seven free throws in the final 1:36 to give her team a 49-39 win in the semifinals of the Academy-A South State tournament.

PCA (20-10), which had already earned a spot in the state tournament, will play Huntington (21-12) today at 1 p.m. at Trinity in the South State consolation game.

The winner will get the No. 3 seed from the South in next week’s state tournament in Marks. The state tournament brackets will be announced on Sunday.

Brady Willis led PCA with 19 points, eight rebounds and four steals and Kayla Barnette had 14 points. Bass finished with 12 points for Trinity, while Lauren Tanner had 14 points and 10 rebounds, Ashley Kingsafer had 10 points and seven boards and Vanessa Gordon had 12 points, 12 rebounds and six steals.

“They were all pumped up. It’s like we weren’t awake until the fourth quarter,” said PCA senior forward K.K. Willis, who had nine rebounds but was held to only two points. “The fourth quarter was our game. I don’t know what we were doing the first three quarters.”

The Lady Eagles struggled against Trinity’s aggressive defense for most of the game. The Lady Saints (22-6) had 13 steals in the game and denied the ball inside in the first half, forcing PCA into taking long jumpers and 3-pointers.

PCA was just 1-for-11 from 3-point range in the first half and 4-for-22 shooting overall as Trinity took a 29-10 halftime lead.

“We knew they were going to run that 2-2-1 zone. We practiced against it the other day, and they still panicked,” PCA coach Mitchell Willis said.

The third quarter was more of the same for PCA. The Lady Eagles turned the ball over seven times, hit only 3 of 13 shots from the field and couldn’t keep up with Trinity’s transition offense as the Lady Saints increased their lead to as many as 21 points.

In the final three minutes of the quarter, however, PCA made a small run that eventually turned into a full-blown scare for Trinity. The Lady Eagles closed the quarter with a 6-1 spurt to make it 38-22, then outscored Trinity 12-4 over the first four minutes of the fourth quarter.

Brady Willis hit a 3-pointer to cut it to 40-30 with 3:45 to play, then was fouled on another 3-point attempt 45 seconds later and hit two out of three free throws to make it 42-34.

“We missed six free throws in there, and every time we missed one they took advantage of it, and that started their little run there,” Trinity coach Melanie Hall said.

Despite having all five starters playing with four fouls, the Lady Eagles were able to keep up their defensive pressure. Trinity had only one field goal over the last 11 minutes of the game and went nearly five minutes without scoring a point late in the third quarter and early in the fourth.

“We were playing good defense, but we couldn’t do anything. If one girl got beat, we couldn’t slide over on defense to help because we all had four fouls,” Brady Willis said.

After she hit her free throws, Trinity turned the ball over on its next possession. PCA was unable to get a shot off for nearly 40 seconds, however, and finally missed a shot jumper.

Trinity got the rebound and worked some time off the clock until Bass was fouled by Kelly Ashley with 1:36 to play. Ashley was the first of three Lady Eagles to foul out in the last minute and a half, and PCA’s comeback got more improbable with each foul out and free throw.

Barnette hit a 3-pointer with under a minute to play to cut it to 44-37, but Bass kept making free throws and the Lady Eagles were unable to get any closer.

“If we could’ve hit some more shots, we could’ve pulled it out,” Mitchell Willis said.