“One game season, that is the approach that we are taking it,” Sylacauga head coach Derrick Crawford said. “That’s the only approach we can take so we won’t take anybody for granted. My hat goes off to Coach Smith and his girls for battling the way they battled. Jasmine (Richardson) played a good game tonight as well as, (Morgan) Merritt, (Anslea) Twymon played well tonight. We will be pulling for Winterboro, we hope that they do well and my hat goes off to them.”
The Lady Aggies jumped out to fast start in the championship game as they took a 14-0 lead. Tierra Dark hit a turnaround jumper to start the game to make it 2-0. Kayla Dark hit a layup to make it 6-0. Offensive MVP of the Tournament Shakayla Thomas scored 10 of her game high 40 points. Thomas hit back-to-back jumper from the left wing to give the Lady Aggies a 10-0 lead with 3:55 left in the quarter. Thomas, a finalist for the McDonalds All-American game, scored on a put back and hit another midrange jumper to increase Sylacauga advantage to 14-0.
“We set the tone early and we wanted to,” Crawford said. “It is one of the things we talked about trying to separate ourselves early. We were able to get out early and get some balls on defense and get into transition. We wanted to give him some different looks early that he hasn’t seen us in previous scouting reports when he had the opportunity to come see us. We wanted to give them a whole different look and we did that early on, so we were able to get some good looks and some shots early for Shakayla. We knew that they were going to battle; they have a good basketball team. They do a lot of things that present you problems and fortunate enough we were able to get a nice cushion and they had to battle back- right there at the end they battled back.”
Jasmine Richardson put the eighth ranked Lady Bulldogs on the board on a pair of free throws. Nadia Estelle hit a shot in the final seconds of the quarter to cut Sylacauga lead to 14-4 going to the second quarter.
Thomas continued her hot shooting in the second quarter. The Florida State signee hit a 3 –pointer to give the Lady Aggies a 19-4 lead. After hitting another long jumper, she converted a three point play to increase their lead to 25-10.
Jasmine Richardson scored four points in the quarter, which included a pair of free throws to cut their lead to 25-12 with 3:49 left in the half.
Taniya Garrett scored four points in the quarter including a put back that increased their lead to 27-12.
Back-to-back three point plays by Thomas gave Sylacauga a 33-12 lead with 2:44 left in the half.
Winterboro took a 6-2 run to end the first half. Anslea Twymon scored a layup to cut the Sylacauga lead to 37-18 going to halftime.
“When you’re playing a well-coached and great team like Sylacauga your first half can’t be so down where you dig yourself a hole,” Winterboro head coach Sheroderick Smith said. “They can have some cushion times where they are still that much ahead of us. We just have to work on consistency and are honored to play a great team. Hopefully, this will prepare us for the run that we are trying to make with three regular season games remaining.”
The Lady Aggies stayed in control in the third quarter. Tierra Dark, who scored 13 points, hit back to back shots to increase Sylacauga’s lead to 43-23.
Thomas scored six points in the quarter including a layup to increase their lead to 49-23.
Banisha Horn nailed a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 49-26.
The Lady Aggies took a 49-28 lead into the final period.
Sylacauga led by as much as 23 points in the final quarter, but Winterboro fought their way back into the game in competitive. The Lady Bulldogs ended the game on a 17-4 run. Richardson scored 10 of her 21 points in the fourth quarter. She started the run with a layup to cut the lead to 57-36. Nadia Estelle connected on a put back to make it 59-42. Richardson scored four points late in the game to cut the down to 61-49.
Late in the game Richardson hit a jumper to cut the Sylacauga lead to 61-49.
“For what we do basketball wise, we didn’t quite execute everything like we wanted to,” Smith said. “We had a few moments where we broke down in the game plan and they scored off of it. We got beat up on the boards pretty good towards the end of the first quarter. We started to break down a lot, not believing in the game plan. We got out of a competitive spirit. We took a lot of shots in the first half that weren’t dropping and should have been attacking the glass. We sort of regained our composure in the third quarter and we made two good runs in the fourth quarter. For where we are trying to go we can’t have games like that. We got some good looks at some things; we got to the basket some times. We are going to have to tighten up defensively and on the boards.”
Crawford believes the second half of the game gives his team some things to work on as they prepare for the postseason.
“We gave up some uncontested shots in the second half,” Crawford said. “I think we went into cruise control a little bit. Our kids saw that we had that nice cushion-we stopped playing there for a while. That gives us something to work on. We are still not near playing our best basketball, so from this point on that is our focus. We are trying to get where we start playing our best basketball and start peaking going down the stretch. We have an idea of the pieces that we can use. We think it could be fun, but we have to stay healthy and keep the same approach which is ‘One day, one game at a time, one team, one goal.’”