Porter’s Chapel tunes up for South State tournament with two easy wins
Published 11:06 pm Thursday, February 1, 2024
Porter’s Chapel Academy already had the MAIS District 4-3A girls’ basketball championship in hand. In fact, it had the trophy sitting on a shelf in its gym when the league’s teams gathered there Thursday for a modified tournament.
Still, it didn’t hurt to show one last time why they earned it.
Jae’la Smith finished with 37 points, seven rebounds, five steals and five assists, and the Lady Eagles blew out Prairie View Academy 73-17 to open the postseason.
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PCA improved its record to 17-0 as it heads to the Class 3A South State tournament, which it will host beginning Tuesday. The South State schedule will not be finalized until Saturday night.
“It feels real good,” PCA forward Lauren Madison said of being undefeated. She had 16 points and 11 rebounds against Prairie View. “We’re going to remain humble and we’re going to go into next week with a good mindset.”
Since there are only four teams in District 4-3A, and four teams from each district advance to South State, its members elected to use the regular-season standings to determine seedings for South State.
They still gathered Thursday at PCA for four games — two for the girls and two for the boys — that served as a cross between an exhibition, bonus tune-up game, and look-ahead to next week.
South State will be the first postseason tournament PCA has hosted in more than a decade. Casey Fisher, who coaches the school’s girls and boys teams, said it was no small advantage.
“It’s huge. I’ve been telling them since I knew, you’re going to get to play at home, you’re going to sleep in your bed, you don’t have to travel, you’re on the floor that you play on every day. It’s a comfort place,” Fisher said. “We’re excited about having it here. A lot of hard work went in around here to making things nice and cleaning things up.”
The top four teams at South State will advance to the MAIS Class 3A state tournament Feb. 12-19 at Lamar Christian. The way they’ve ripped through the regular season, it’s hard to imagine PCA will not be among them on the girls’ side.
The Lady Eagles came out of the gate a little sluggish Thursday, with several turnovers and a 15-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. Then they outscored Prairie View 31-0 in the second quarter and the entire second half was played with a running clock.
Smith scored 20 of her 37 points in the second quarter, including three 3-pointers.
“Jae’la is such a good offensive player, but she passes the ball extremely well and everybody plays off her. And when they get open, they knock down shots and everybody stays within themselves,” Fisher said.
Sophie Masterson joined Madison in the double-double club, with 10 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots, while Marley Bufkin had five points and Emily Muirhead knocked down a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter. The Lady Eagles were 31-for-51 (60.8 percent) shooting, and made 23 of 32 two-point shots.
Brylee Brakefield led Prairie View with five points.
“All year long we started slow. Tonight was a little better than others, but sometimes you’ve got to weather the storm. They came through,” Fisher said.
PCA’s boys’ team played before the girls and had an equally impressive victory.
Ty Mack and Gavin White scored 21 points each and the Eagles shot 60.4 percent (32-for-53) from the field as they routed River Oaks 80-40.
Chase Hearn and Noah Porter added seven points each. White was 5-for-7 from 3-point range, and the Eagles made 11 3-pointers as a team. Seven players made at least one.
That kind of hot shooting, Fisher said, is what they’ll need to advance to the Class 3A state tournament for the second time in three seasons.
“We play fast and quick, get the ball up and down. When we’re making shots we’re a good ballclub,” Fisher said.
They’ll also need to find a way past District 4-3A champion Hillcrest Christian, which defeated the Eagles twice — by 39 and 23 points — in the regular season.
PCA doesn’t need to beat Hillcrest to advance beyond next week. As the No. 2 seed they’ll be on the opposite side of the bracket and won’t face the Cougars until the championship game.
Still, Fisher admitted that a third showdown with Hillcrest is a bad style match-up that he’s not really looking forward to.
“We’ve lost some close ballgames. The only team in district that handled us is Hillcrest. They have the size. We just don’t have the size to match up with them,” Fisher said. “We’re awfully excited (about hosting). The only thing about being back home is Hillcrest is going to be here with us.”