Jefferson County girls edge out Natchez with veteran composure

Published 12:34 am Friday, December 1, 2017

The difference in Thursday’s Jefferson County win over Natchez High came down to communication.

The Lady Tigers held on for a 53-49 win, and coach Flora McKnight credited it to the verbal strength of her starting five, led by three seniors in Antrell Gales, Kailyn Hammett and Tra’Nesha Wells.

“They talk, talk, talk,” McKnight said. “You have to talk in order to win big games. By being veterans, they know what to do. It makes my job so much easier.”

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From the beginning, it seemed as if Jefferson County would pull ahead quick as Hammett nailed three 3-pointers in the first quarter for 17-12 lead at the end of the period.

As tensions heightened in the untraditional rivalry game, both teams’ ball handling got a little messy in the second quarter, and Natchez (2-2) regained traction and went on a 7-0 run midway through the period sparked by a Terries Smith 3-pointer.

The game was tied at half, 28-28.

“It was a very good game. We fought,” Natchez coach ShaRhonda Gipson said.

Gipson said though her team was able to make some good comebacks, its naivety showed.

“As a lesson about finishing, we need to fight until the end,” she said. “We made some good plays where we were learning, but we need to capitalize.”

Jefferson County (5-1) was able to slow down its momentum to begin the second half, making its way under the basket for easy layups. It also held Natchez to just six points in the third period to lead 43-34 at the final break.

“We started out pressing and I knew they were going to prepare for that at halftime so I got out of that,” McKnight said. “We wanted to save energy and save a little wind. We ended up playing good half-court defense.”

McKnight said without a no-panic attitude, she is not sure how the game would have played out, especially since the Lady Bulldogs came back within one point within the final minute of the game.

“It was big even though we left plenty of points on the floor,” she said. “Natchez is one of our highlights of the season, but we have bigger goals. I didn’t call timeout, so I left a little pressure on the team. They did well.”

As Natchez attempted to stop the Lady Tigers on the final press, it wasn’t able to capitalize on late shots. Gipson said her team needs to understand the importance of situational basketball.

“We need to know what we need. If you need the 3, know who your 3-point shooters are,” she said. “Within the last 30 second or so, we couldn’t get it to the person who needed it.”

Hammett led the effort for Jefferson County, ending the game with 20 points. Gales added another 11, nine rebounds and four blocks.

The Lady Bulldogs fell despite a game-high 23 points from senior Aja Carter. Candi Gray followed with nine points.

Natchez (boys) 79, Jefferson County 41

Natchez’s Taylor Chasely scored 21 points — all coming on 3-pointers — to lead the Bulldogs past Jefferson County, 79-41.

“He came out hot,” Natchez coach David Haywood said. “The energy was up, and the guys played really hard. They played the game how it was supposed to be played.”

Izzy Holmes followed closely with 19 points of his own, and Shontae Holmes added another 12.

After an overtime loss to Vidalia on Tuesday night, Haywood said he was pleased to see his team come together as one.

“We just tried to learn from our mistakes,” he said. “I think they enjoyed the feeling.”

Rashad Short led the effort for the Tigers with 14 points. Richie Jackson scored nine.

Natchez plays next on Tuesday at home against Wilkinson County.