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WCCA Lady Rams advance to Overall, Rams boys season ends in shocking fashion

MARKS — It was hard to figure out what was the most surprising outcome when last week’s Midsouth Association of Independent Schools 2020 Class 1A State Tournament at Delta Academy came to a close last Saturday night.

And that was that the Wilkinson County Christian Academy Lady Rams advancing to the 2020 MAIS Overall Basketball Tournament after winning their third-place game or the Rams somehow did not after suffering two straight losses.

In the girls’ semifinals last Friday afternoon, the South No. 3 seed WCCA Lady Rams lost to the South No. 1 seed Riverdale Academy Lady Rebels 31-22.

The first and third quarters were the difference in the outcome. Despite scoring just six points itself in the first quarter, Riverdale held WCCA to only two points. Then the Lady Rebels outscored the Lady Rams 9-4 in the third quarter for a 27-16 advantage.

“They played a man defense. We went up against a good defense, but we had trouble putting the ball in the bucket,” Lady Rams head coach Mike McGraw said.

Gracie Cavin was the leading scorer for the Lady Rams with eight points and Alexis June had five points. Bailey Pate led the Lady Rebels with a game-high 13 points.

That loss dropped WCCA to the third-place game, where the Lady Rams took on an unknown team in the North No. 3 seed Regents School of Oxford Lady Lions last Saturday afternoon with a berth in the Overall Tournament at stake.

Trailing 23-22 at halftime, the Lady Rams turned to their defense in the third quarter and that was key in their 46-43 win over the Lady Lions.

“We just kept pressuring the ball and they finally turned the ball over,” McGraw said. “It was a dogfight till the end.”

As for who stepped up on the defensive end, especially in the third quarter, McGraw said, “They all played good defense. Everybody on the floor played good defense.”

Two players for Regents School of Oxford gave the Lady Rams fits every time they had the ball in their hands — Mariah Jones, who led all scorers with 21 points, and Jamiya Fondren, who poured in 16 points. The rest of the Lady Lions, however, were held to a total of six points.

Balanced scoring was another contributing factor for WCCA. June and Anna Charlotte Redhead led the Lady Rams with 10 points each while Cavin had nine points and Cheylin Bolden added eight points.

“Redhead and June stepped up big on Saturday. Cavin and Bolden did, too,” McGraw said. “Bolden’s just an eighth-grader. Cavin fouled out, but Bolden stepped up for her.”

That win allowed the Lady Rams to move on to the Overall Tournament as the Class 1A No. 3 seed at A.E. Wood Coliseum on the campus of Mississippi College in Clinton, where they will take on Class 5A state champion and No. 1 seed Jackson Preparatory School today at 12:30 p.m.

“They were thrilled to go (to Overall), but they were not too thrilled to find out that they had to play Jackson Prep in the first round,” McGraw said. “I don’t think (the Lady Rams) have been there since 1986.”

Unfortunately, the Class 1A South State champion and No. 1 seed WCCA Rams could not keep their momentum after advancing to the boys’ semifinals of the state tournament.

First, they were upset by the North No. 2 seed Desoto School Thunderbirds out of West Helena, Ark., 43-41 in overtime last Friday night. R.J. Fisher led the Rams with 14 points while Roderick Bailey had 13 points and Andrew Sessions added 12 points.

“They all shot the ball pretty good. We didn’t protect the ball,” Rams head coach Ken Perry said. “We were up by five with four minutes left in (regulation). We turned the ball over in crucial situations. They scored on nine possessions off them. We have two juniors and two sophomores and even our one senior who haven’t played in that big of a game. But that’s no excuse.”

Although WCCA had 19 turnovers for the game, Perry said his team should have won the game. He also said that “you don’t win many games doing that.”

And in an even more stunning outcome, the Rams lost to the South No. 2 seed Riverdale Academy Rebels 64-54 last Saturday night in the third-place game.

Fisher was the leading scorer for the WCCA with 24 points and Thomas Vannoy finished with 13 points.

“Roderick Bailey got in foul trouble early in the second quarter. That turned around the game for us – defensively, for sure,” Perry said. “The boys played hard. They always played hard. But they just weren’t in the game after the loss in overtime the night before.”
Not only were the Rams missing Bailey’s defensive presence because of his early foul trouble, but also on offense as had just six points. Perry also noted that the Rams did not play with the same amount of energy that they had all season.

The WCCA Rams, the District 3-1A and South State champions, finished their season with an overall record of 26-6. Both Bailey and Fisher made the All-Tournament Team.