Natchez girls top Brandon after losing twice in regular season

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Natchez High School player Kiana Jones (center) looks for an open teammate while being guarded by Brandon High School defenders Olivia Countiss, left, and Keundra Kelly, right, during the tournament game Tuesday evening at Natchez High School. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — The Natchez High School girls basketball team wasn’t there to talk about the past.

Instead, the hometown Lady Bulldog buried the past with a 46-38 win against Brandon High School in the first round of the MHSAA Region 6-6A Tournament Tuesday.

NHS, which entered as the No. 3 seed, lost to Brandon both times during the regular season, but the hometown Lady Bulldogs used a strong fourth quarter to advance against the No. 2 seed visiting Lady Bulldogs.

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“This was a major win,” NHS head coach Alphaka Moore said. “They beat us twice, and for us to come back, we just had the mindset that we weren’t going to let them beat us this time, and it came through.”

Guard Keyana Miller, who scored seven of her 10 points in the fourth quarter, said the reality of single-elimination made the win that much more important.

“Of course it was big, because if we lost we would have had to go home, so I’m glad we were able to pull together and win,” Miller said.

The hometown Lady Bulldogs entered the fourth period with a 27-20 lead, and Miller extended the lead by two with a basket at the 7;19 mark. But Brandon’s Stephanie Hobson sank a three-pointer with seven minutes to go to make is 29-23.

NHS then rattled off six unanswered points, highlighted by Miller’s trey at the 5:20 mark, extending its lead to 35-23. Lauren Brooks finally broke the streak for Brandon with a field goal at the 3:43 mark, but the visiting Lady Bulldogs wouldn’t score again until 1:45 left. The hometown Lady Bulldogs, meanwhile, missed several one-and-one free throws but kept Brandon at bay before Kiana Jones hit a two-pointer with 2:12 left.

With the score 37-25, Brandon’s Ashley Brown sank a free throw at the 1:45 mark to cut the game to 11. But Miller scored her final two points on a pair of free throws with 1:34 left, making it 39-26.

Brandon outscored NHS 12-7 in the final 1:30, but it wouldn’t make a difference, as the visiting Lady Bulldogs’ season came to a close.

“It was just us finishing the game,” Moore said of her team’s fourth-quarter performance. “Every time we get into the fourth quarter, our whole mindset is that we just have to finish, and that’s what their mindset was.”

Miller said afterward that her team’s mindset didn’t change after they got up by 10, even as the hometown Lady Bulldogs were forced to fight through fatigue.

“We knew, ‘Fight to the finish,’” Miller said. “Like our coach told us, we’re not satisfied until the clock is double-zero.

“When we got up, there were a few seconds that we just started to get really tired, but I think us wanting to win our fight (allowed us to push through).”

Brandon led 9-8 after the first quarter, but NHS held Brandon to just four points in the second to take a 17-13 lead into the break.

Jones led in scoring with 17 points, and Rashonae Rice was NHS’s leading rebounder with eight. Tytana Hall scored 13 points and eight rebounds for Brandon, and Olivia Countiss had 11 points.

NHS (17-7) will face No. 1 seed Forest Hill at 6 p.m. Friday.