Hattiesburg ends Lady Bulldogs’ season

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, February 19, 2008

NATCHEZ — Hattiesburg’s Lenise Stallings came off the bench to score a team-high 25 points to lead the Lady Tigers to a stunning 68-61 win over the Natchez High Lady Bulldogs Monday night in the first round of the Class 5A South State playoffs.

With the win, Division 5-5A runner-up Hattiesburg (20-8) advanced to the South State Tournament. On the other hand, it was a disappointing end to a great season for Natchez High. The Division 6-5A champion Lady Bulldogs finished with a 23-6 record.

“We didn’t execute. We didn’t rebound well. Didn’t cut off the baseline well. And our shots just weren’t falling,” Lady Bulldogs head coach Sue Johnson said.

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What hurt Natchez High’s chances of winning the game the most were too many missed lay-ups off turnovers and not converting at the free-throw line. The Lady Bulldogs made just 15 of 27 free throws. At one point, Hattiesburg was 7-of-9 from line and ended going 14 out of 25.

Hattiesburg used an array of defenses to throw Natchez High off its’ game. At times the Lady Tigers went to a full-court press, then a half-court trap and then a 2-3 zone.

“I was trying to manage my girls. I believe in my guards on defense,” Lady Tigers head coach Caronica DeBose said. “That’s something we talked about — staying focuse when we had the lead.”

It obviously worked as Skyler Chaney scored just three points, and that didn’t occur until late in the ball game. Ashley Morrison scored just two points despite pulling down nine rebounds and Jennifer Jackson, one of the Lady Bulldogs’ top reserves, was held scoreless. The Lady Bulldogs also turned the ball over 26 times.

“We knew what they were going to do. We practiced for it,” Johnson said. “Just basic fundamentals that we teach all the time. I’m still very proud of them. We had a good season.”

Alia Frank and Keosha Bradley was most of Natchez High’s offense in this game. Frank finished with a game-high 29 points to go with eight rebounds and two steals before fouling out with 2:47 left in the game. Bradley had 15 points, four rebounds and three steals.

The Lady Bulldogs also couldn’t guard Lenise Stallings or her sister Colby Stallings. Lenise connected on four three-pointers while Colby finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and six steals.

“Lenise is normally a starter, but she’s been plagued by injuries,” DeBose said. “I like to bring her off the bench because of the way she played against Oak Grove.”

Vivian Hall also had a big game for Hattiesburg with 10 points, 10 rebounds and four steals before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.