Natchez girls stay hot, pull upset of Murrah

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 14, 2005

NATCHEZ &045; Natchez High’s winning streak just keeps on growing.

The Lady Bulldogs have won their last eight games, starting just after head coach Sue Johnson told her team they weren’t going to lose another game this season.

&uot;We’re playing good basketball right now,&uot; Natchez’s Wennifer Noble said. &uot;We’re on our way to 10 in a row. Everyone on the team believes we can accomplish anything.&uot;

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The Lady Bulldogs (15-8) beat Murrah (19-7) 58-57, holding on for the win in a wild game that featured five lead changes. The Lady Bulldogs had led 58-50 with less than a minute to play.

Natchez led 58-54 when Murrah’s Nicole Lowe knocked down a 3-pointer to make it a one-point game with two seconds to play, but the clock ran out before Natchez even got a chance to inbound the ball.

Johnson said she was pleased to get the win but upset her team made so many mistakes.

&uot;It’s hard to tell how we won, as many mistakes as we made and layups we missed,&uot; Johnson said. &uot;I’m proud of them, but at the end with 24 seconds to play, we lost focus. We thought it was over, and it wasn’t. That team has been to the big house each of the last seven years. They’ll fight until there’s no time left.&uot;

Noble had stolen the ball and thrown it off Murrah’s Lowe and out of bounds with 24 seconds remaining in the game, giving the Lady Bulldogs the ball. But Natchez was called for a backcourt violation with 14 seconds to play, giving the ball right back to Murrah.

Noble was crucial to the win, as she started for the first time in several weeks and had one of her best games of the season, scoring 14 points but also playing stellar defense and hitting the boards for some important rebounds.

&uot;I started her because I wasn’t getting what I needed from other players,&uot; Johnson said.

Noble is particularly important because she can play multiple positions and gives the Lady Bulldogs more flexibility on their substitutions.

&uot;It depends on who’s out there. I can play the four (power forward), three (small forward), even the two (shooting guard),&uot; Noble said. &uot;I like playing it all, it doesn’t matter to me. My game is outside, but if I have to I can go inside.&uot;

The Lady Bulldogs played tough defense throughout the game, Johnson said, and had more energy in the second half when Natchez went on an 8-2 run midway through the fourth quarter to take a 58-50 lead with 2:19 to go.

&uot;I think we had more speed down the stretch. They had plenty of speed on their team, but I think they got tired,&uot; Johnson said.

Murrah head coach Anna Jackson said she didn’t think the Natchez defense was the difference in the game, just that her team didn’t play like it can.

&uot;Their defense didn’t affect my players,&uot; Jackson said.

The Lady Bulldogs held Murrah’s leading scorers Jessica Mitchell and Danielle Baldwin to just 13 points in the game.

&uot;(Mitchell) wasn’t really a factor. Their two main players (Mitchell and Baldwin) &045; we didn’t want them to beat us and we contained them pretty well,&uot; Johnson said.

Murrah’s Jackson had a different explanation for Baldwin’s off night.

&uot;(Baldwin) is ill tonight. Nobody can handle No. 11 (Baldwin) when she’s well,&uot; Jackson said. &uot;But I thought we played very well without her when she wasn’t in there. They play hard.&uot;

The Lady Bulldogs have won eight consecutive games since Johnson reportedly told her team they had better not lose another game this year. At the time, the Lady Bulldogs were just 6-8.

&uot;Coach (Johnson) put it in our heads we were going to go undefeated for the rest of the year,&uot; Noble said.