Natchez High School player Kiana Jones, center, buries her face in a towel late while on the bench late in the game against Forest Hill on Friday evening. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)

Officiating frustrates NHS in tourney loss

Published 12:01am Saturday, February 16, 2013

NATCHEZ — Taylor Argue would argue, no pun intended, all day that she was fouled on the final shot.

With her Natchez High School Lady Bulldogs trailing 49-46, Argue took an inbound pass and put up a contested three with less than three seconds to go in regulation.

Argue had several defenders close on her after the inbound pass. The shot was highly contested, awkward and wasn’t even close to the basket. Argue was emotional afterward, displaying her displeasure with the Lady Patriots not being called for the foul after her shot. With the missed basket and the non-call, Forest Hill High School edged NHS to claim the Region 6-6A Tournament championship.

It was just one of many instances that the officiating frustrated NHS head coach Alphaka Moore. Both Moore and Argue said Argue should have gone to the foul line, and Moore also said she thought the officiating was one-sided for much of the game.

“We played a great game,” Moore said. “I think at some point in time the officials got caught looking instead of calling a fair game. I normally don’t say anything about officiating, but at some point, it switched.”

Natchez High School player Taylor Argue, left, stares at an official after a foul wasn’t called as she attempted a last-second three-point basket that would have tied Thursday’s MHSAA Region 6-6A tournament game versus Forest Hill. NHS lost, 49-46. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)

The numbers seemed to back up Moore’s frustrations. Forest Hill was sent to the free throw line 13 times, while NHS only went to the line five times. Argue said she didn’t like the officiating, but it wasn’t the only reason she was frustrated after the game.

“I would say the referees not calling the calls (was most frustrating), but it was our game, and we had it,” Argue said.

The Lady Bulldogs jumped out to an early 12-1 lead at the end of the first quarter, but the Lady Patriots slowly began to creep their way back into the game. The Lady Bulldogs scored just seven points in the second quarter, while the Lady Patriots shook off their slow start and tallied 19 points. NHS was plagued by several turnovers in the second, and the Lady Bulldogs held onto a 24-20 lead at intermission.

“We started rushing our passes and not taking our time,” Argue said.

Moore said there were several instances where her players should have gone to the line in the second quarter.

“We started throwing the ball away, and then my girls were honestly getting pushed purposefully down low, and we weren’t getting the calls,” Moore said.

“What I was told was, ‘We’re letting (post player Zyaire Ewing) play,’ so in their mindset, (Ewing) was better, and they wanted to see how well she would play against somebody pushing and fouling her, and I didn’t get a call.”

Forest Hill was eventually able to take the lead midway through the third quarter, and the Lady Patriots were ahead 38-31 going into the fourth. They extended their lead to 46-35 with 4:10 left in regulation but went cold in the final four minutes, scoring just three points off free throws in the final 20 seconds.

The Lady Bulldogs, meanwhile, put up a strong effort to make things interesting. Argue got things started with a field goal, and Keyana Miller sank two free throws to make it 46-39 with 2:27 left. Zyaire Ewing added two free throws at the 2:05 mark to make it a five-point game, and Miller’s bucket with 50 seconds left made it 46-43.

To the bewilderment of the Lady Bulldog faithful, NHS didn’t draw a foul on the ensuing Lady Patriot possession until the clock got down to 19.5 seconds.

“They were dribbling around for five or 10 seconds, and (the referee’s) hand was constantly moving,” Moore said. “We just didn’t have the foul, and even when we tried to, he still didn’t want to call it.”

Ewing led NHS with 17 points, and Miller added 11 points. Rashonae Rice tallied 10 points before fouling out midway through the fourth quarter. Miller and teammate Kiana Jones were given All-Region honors following the game.

Anissa Jackson had 17 points for Forest Hill, and Essence Pullian finished with 12 points. Claresa Banks had 10 points.

NHS (17-8) will play on the road Monday in the first round of the MHSAA Class 6A playoffs.