Second-half rally pushes Lady Choctaws past Brighton
After coming out flat in the opening two quarters after a two-week layoff, the Lady Choctaws came out in the second half and made up for the slow start to take a 70-66 win over the Lady Cardinals in Dyer County’s District 13AAA opener on Tuesday night in Newbern.
“We started out a little sluggish,” Dyer County head coach Derek McCord said. “We’ve had over a week layoff and it showed.
“But, we bounced back, played hard and competed.”
Trailing by a baker’s dozen entering the second half, the Lady Choctaws got work quickly in the third quarter to erase the deficit. A pair of Torri Daniels free throws opened a run and was followed by an Alexis Akins three-pointer. Buckets from Katelyn Anderson and Nakeeva Brandon followed before another pair of freebies by Daniels capped the 11-0 run to cut the Brighton lead to 37-35 with 4:26 left in the frame. Brighton answered back with buckets from Lindsey Morrissett and Sylvia Jones along with a three-pointer by Aubree Jones to counter a Katelyn Anderson jumper and push the lead back to seven with 2:39 left. But, the Lady Choctaws ended the frame in similar fashion to how it began as a free throw and layup from Akins sparked a 9-0 run capped by Akins with two more free throws to give Dyer County its first lead of the game at 46-44 at the end of three quarters.
After Brighton tied the game early in the fourth quarter, the Lady Choctaws got a three-point play from Daniels and a Jam’ya Glenn jumper to take a five-point lead. After the Lady Cardinals cut the lead back to two points on two occasions, Dyer County got a layup from Amaria Pugh and three points from Daniels, followed by a Glenn trey later in the frame to build a 61-54 lead. But, the Lady Cardinals still had their minds set on an upset as buckets from Talivah Brown, Onyx Magno and Meg Smith cut Dyer County’s lead to a lone point at the two-minute mark. With the Lady Cardinals forced to foul, the Lady Choctaws hit six straight free throws as Glenn, Katelyn Anderson and Akins all contributed from the line. Brighton had one more rally as a foul behind the arc sent Aubree Jones to the line where she hit all three to cut the gap back to one before Glenn and Alea Russell each hit a free throw to seal the win for the Lady Choctaws.
“We’ve got to come out ready to play,” McCord said. “We were fortunate to win, but we’ve got to come out ready to play.”
The Lady Choctaws were able to hold off Brighton down the stretch without starters Brandon and Amaria Pugh, who both fouled out within 20 seconds of each other around the four-minute mark of the final frame.
“We made a lot of silly fouls in the first half,” McCord said. “And, fouling negates hustle. It really hampered our press.”
The Lady Cardinals took the lead early, opening up the game with a 6-0 run capped by a a three-point play by Morrissett and a free throw by Smith. After a Hanna Box layup finally got the Lady Choctaws on the board with 4:45 left in the frame, a three-pointer by Brown set the tone for the Lady Cardinals as Brighton outscored Dyer County 9-4 down the stretch to take a 16-7 lead after one.
Layups from Daniels and Pugh got the ball rolling for Dyer County in the second quarter, but a 7-0 run by the Lady Cardinals later in the frame pushed the Brighton lead to a dozen. The Lady Choctaws got the lead cut back to nine following a Pugh free throw and a Brandon bucket. But, the Lady Cardinals held Dyer County to one field goal and two free throws over the final two minutes while putting eight more on their side of the board to take a 37-24 lead at the break.
“Brighton is really quick – they’re a lot quicker than we are,” McCord said. “We’ve just got to play smarter.
“The first group, for whatever reason, didn’t start the game with a lot of energy. So, we went to the second group and I thought they really came out and played hard.”
Pugh led the way for the Lady Choctaws with 14 points while Daniels and Akins each added 13. Glenn tossed in 10 in the win.
“We’ve got a really good game coming up Friday with Liberty coming in,” McCord said. “That was a really good game down there the first time.”
The win improves the Lady Choctaws’ record to 13-2 on the year and 1-0 in 13AAA.
Brighton boys 70, Dyer County 36
The Choctaws got behind early and never recovered as they trailed by nearly 20 points at the end of the first quarter on the way to a 34-point loss.
“We’re just playing without a point guard,” McCord said. “And, we’re just trying to patch it together.
“The disappointing thing is how quickly our guys got down. I felt like, in the first quarter, our guys just really appeared to be crushed and really didn’t have a lot of fight in them.”
McCord said he thought the team’s performance in the Beach Blowout Tournament last week could have been a factor as the Choctaws were winless in three games at Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
The Choctaws were a little shorthanded as they were playing without Deon Thompson, who is no longer with the team due to disciplinary issues.
“We’re really struggling shooting the ball,” McCord said. “We’re playing a lot of kids who have not been in the gym enough.
“We’ve got a propensity to shoot it and not get back on defense. We kind of dug ourselves in a hole by taking some ill-advised threes and our guards did not do a good job of getting back.”
Brighton controlled the tempo early, getting five points from Taeylr Gatlin in the first minute of action as part of an 11-2 run capped by three-pointers from Alex Malone and Zach Lewis. After a Vinson Taylor bucket ended that run, a pair of Lewis buckets opened a 14-2 run to end the frame and push the Cardinal lead to 25-6 after one frame.
Dyer County cut briefly into the Cardinal lead at the start of the second frame, getting buckets from Rico Quinton and Jefhry Taylor to trim the lead to 15. But, Brighton answered with a 7-0 run of its own to push the lead back to 22 points with an Aaron Alston bucket. The Choctaws fought back with a Quinton putback followed by a Jacob Anderson three-pointer and Caleb Ball layup before a last-second Ethan Bell three-pointer gave Brighton a 35-17 lead at the break.
The Cardinals pushed their lead back to 22 points midway through the third quarter with a three-point play from Alston, but Dyer County got one in return from Quinton to trim it back to 45-26. Brighton, though, controlled the remaining three minutes of the frame as a trey from Malone sparked a 13-0 run to end the stanza and give Brighton a 58-26 going into the final frame.
An early Gatlin trey put the Cardinals up by 35 points, enforcing the mercy rule as Brighton outscored Dyer County 12-10 in the shortened fourth quarter.
“They’re a better basketball team than us,” McCord said. “But, they’re not 30 points better than us. We threw it all over the gym.
“Too many turnovers. Brighton plays year round and they’re hard to compete with.”
Quinton led the way for Dyer County with 11 points while Vinson Taylor added 10 in the loss.
“The difference in the game was we didn’t take care of the ball,” McCord said. “Our guard play continues to be our Achilles’ heel. We just continue to throw the ball all over the gym and we took bad shots.”
The Choctaws (8-7, 0-1) return to action on Friday when Dyer County hosts Liberty Tech in homecoming action.
Tipoff for the girls game is set for 6 p.m.