With the win the Lady Aggies will advance to the Class 5A Central Regional finals to take on Central of Tuscaloosa.
“We talked last night and I told you this was a good basketball team,” Crawford said. “Kiara Pope got in foul trouble and getting my point guard off the floor makes it extremely tough to run or offense and run our sets . For that long period of time I think she came out with four minutes left in the first and she had to sit the entire second quarter. We jumped out on them, but they were able to battle back. We were still comfortable where we were standing going into halftime. Then we had a come to Jesus meeting at halftime about a few things and girls came out responded extremely well. I am very proud of the way we protected the ball especially in the second half where we only had six turnovers. In the first quarter I think we had seven alone. It feels good to advance and move on.”
This is the second year in a row that the Lady Aggies have advanced to the Regional finals.
“Our goals are the same that they have been the last three years,” Crawford said. “This team right here is a young team but they are a very veteran like team. All these kids that are in the backcourt were apart of this team three years ago that came down here. We have a lot of youth, but at the same time we are very experienced. We like our team. We like our chances if these kids stay hungry and stay focus-takes this one game at a time, not overlook thinking about getting to the big dance. I think we will be OK.”
For majority of the season, the Lady Aggies have responded after coming out the locker room for halftime and on Tuesday it wasn’t any different. Sylacauga took control of the game in the third quarter. The Lady Aggies quickly expanded their four point halftime lead to nine points to start the quarter. Kayla Dark hit a layup to start the quarter to make it 27-21. Tierra Dark nailed a jumper off the hustle play of Keria Looney. Thomas’ three point play put Sylacauga ahead 32-22 with 4:25 left in the quarter. Free throws by Looney and Thomas increased Sylacauga’s lead to 36-23.
The Lady Aggies defense also stiffed as they forced 11 turnovers and held the Lady Stampede to 3-11 from the field for 10 points.
Pope’s presence was felt on both ends of the court when she was in the game. Offensively, the Lady Aggies were more efficient and on the defensive end of the court she did allow Paul Bryant’s playmaker Destinee Wilson get going. Wilson finished the game 1-11 from the field for four points and zero assists.
“It was tough, but I had to get it,”Pope said.
Thomas put the Lady Aggies ahead 41-26 on a layup off the assist of Tierra Dark.
Paul Bryant ended the quarter on a 5-1 run to cut the lead to 42-31 going into the fourth quarter.
“The kids got challenged, we challenged them,” Crawford said when asked about the third quarter. “From time to time you have to challenge your kids and they got challenged in there. They responded the way they have responded all year once they got challenged.
Kayla Dark sparked an 8-2 run to open the final quarter. The eighth grade guard scored six points including a layup to put Sylacauga on top 50-33.
Paul Bryant didn’t allow Thomas to get many clean looks the entire game as she was surrounded by defenders every time she crossed half court of the offensive end of the floor. Thomas went 9-21 from the field and 14-22 from the free throw line.
“Basketball is all about being physical,” Thomas said. “We have been preparing for this in the offseason by getting in the weight room. In the game we came out running, then we had a step back, which led to a major come back. We came out and did what we had to do.”
Thomas got off to a quick start in the first quarter. The reigning Class 5A Player of the Year scored 10 points and an assist to help Sylacauga take a 14-6 lead. Pope picked up two fouls in the first quarter.
In the second quarter the Lady Stampede came battled back to take the lead. Paul Bryant went on 14-4 run to take a 22-18 lead with 2:12.
Thomas tied the game with a jumper to make it 20-20. She later hit a free throw to free throw to give the Lady Aggies a 21-20 lead.
Tierra Dark and Ebony Mitchell closed out the first half with jumpers to give Sylacauga a 25-21 lead going into half time.
Tierra Dark finished with 10 points and six assists. Kayla Dark finished 12 points.