Gadsden City advances to Northeast Regional for fifth straight year
Thu. February 14, 2013 at 11:07 p.m. | By Nick Johnston Sports Writer
Gadsden City’s TK Blount grabs a rebound as Lee’s Destini Stewart and April Holmes defend during Thursday’s game. Gadsden City’s Alyah Jackson tries to assist. (Photo by Marc Golden | Gadsden Times)
Helter skelter would be describing this game mildly.
Gadsden City overcame a feisty Lee-Huntsville squad Thursday night for a 54-47 win in the sub-regional round of the playoffs and a spot in the Class 6A Northeast Regional girls high school basketball tournament.
It’s the fifth straight season the Titans (22-8) have reached Jacksonville State, and this year, no doubt, they certainly earned the trip.
Lee (18-10) used a relentless fullcourt press to force 26 Gadsden City turnovers. The Titans had to work for every possession across midcourt, but, as coach Jeremy Brooks said, they were expecting that.
“I think their speed gave us trouble,” Brooks said. “We knew it was coming. We knew they wanted to make it a wild, helter skelter-type game.”
Gadsden City committed nine turnovers in the opening quarter, but point guard and eighth-grade standout Brooke Burns chalked that up to nerves more than anything.
“I started off real excited and that comes with nerves, I guess,” Burns said. “So, I was a little bit nervous at first.”
Lee pulled within two points at the 3:19 mark of the second quarter, but Gadsden City took control by ending the half on a 10-2 run for a 30-20 lead at the break.
But the Generals did not go away, seemingly upping their pressure defense and outscoring the Titans 11-4 by the midway point of the third quarter.
“Every time we would start to pull away they would close the gap again, but we never let them come back and tie it up,” Brooks said. “We kept just a little bit of a gap.”
Gadsden City led 39-34 heading into the fourth, but a 3-pointer by Lee’s Tiera Williams pulled the Generals to within a bucket. A quick 6-0 spurt, though, got the Titans out of danger. DeWayna Martin hit a 3-pointer, Dajia Williams made a layup and Burns made 1 of 2 free throws during the stretch.
Lee twice got within four points down the stretch but could get no closer.
Alyah Jackson made two big plays inside of a minute to play to help Gadsden City secure the win. With 37 seconds remaining, she missed her second free throw only to get the rebound. She did the same thing with 17 seconds to go and was immediately fouled. She calmly sank both of her free throws to give the Titans a six-point edge.
“It was just a hard-fought game,” Brooks said. “It wasn’t really a perfectly executed game, but against that style of play, it’s almost hard to do that.”
Williams, coming off an MVP performance in the Class 6A, Area 9 tournament, led all scorers with 22 points and she added eight rebounds.
“She’s key for us,” Brooks said. “When we broke the pressure, they really didn’t have an answer for her. Really what slowed her down was them pressuring our guards. They put pressure outside to keep you from getting the ball in rather than packing it inside.
“When she got it inside, she did some pretty good damage.”
Added Burns, “I really enjoy having Dajia in the middle.”
Burns had eight points and five assists for the Titans, who will play No. 2 Shades Valley at noon Wednesday at JSU. Jackson scored eight points, while Martin and Hannah Harris added six points.
For Lee, Williams scored 16 points, Calia Binford had 11 points and Tuana Willie added 10 points.