Turnovers plague Lady Warriors in 6A SemifinalsBy CAMAL PETRO,
JACKSON – Even without their leading scorer and a key defensive presence in the paint, the Murrah Lady Mustangs ended the Oak Grove Lady Warriors’ season with a 43-37 loss in the 6A Semifinals Wednesday.
Murrah’s Kacey Bradford, who stands 6-foot-2-inches and averages 11 points, six rebounds and two blocks per game, injured her left foot in the quarterfinals, but Murrah was deep enough to wreak havoc on Oak Grove. The Lady Warriors turned the ball over 22 times and shot 11-of-31 from the field.
“We knew they liked to trap,” Oak Grove coach Mark Swindle said. “They’re not any quicker than Tupelo.”
The start of the game, however, was exactly how Swindle pictured it in his head. Senior Lekera Hughes and junior Jazmin Grayson drilled back-to-back 3-point shots to take an early 6-0 lead. Swindle knew his team had to make outside shots because the Lady Mustangs had the size advantage even without Bradford on the floor.
The Lady Warriors only made one 3 and nine field goals for the rest of the game, though.
“What did they score? 40-something? I mean, we can score that many,” Swindle said. “Offensively, not that we didn’t make shots, we didn’t make plays. We threw the ball away sporadically and we acted like we weren’t at the state semifinals.”
Despite the defeat, Swindle was able to see some silver lining.
“What I see out there is if they’re No. 1 in the state, we’re No. 2. We had a chance,” he said.
After Oak Grove’s 6-0 start, Murrah took an 11-10 lead after Nya Irvin’s 3-pointer was good at the buzzer to end the first quarter. Then a low-scoring second quarter sent the teams into the break with Murrah leading 18-14.
The Lady Mustangs grabbed control of the game in the third quarter by taking a 29-20 into the final eight minutes. Their largest lead came at the 6:39 mark of the fourth, as they pushed ahead 33-20.
That’s when Oak Grove made an 11-0 run to put the pressure on Murrah. Grayson converted an old-fashion 3-point play while Murrah’s Keimoya Walker was called for a technical foul on the same play to allow Hughes to sink two free throws. When Oak Grove retained the possession, junior Alesha Temple was fouled and made 1-of-2 shots from the charity stripe to cut the lead to 33-29 in a 17-second span.
Temple made two more free throws on Oak Grove’s next trip down the floor to cut the Lady Mustangs’ lead to 33-31.
“It was just amazing,” Swindle said. “We started to make some free throws. We look up and it’s 33-31. I thought (Murrah) was about to turn the ball over in a trap and (the refs) blew the whistle. …
“We did fight. We just didn’t fight hard enough.”
Murrah’s Sanaa Nelson dribbled to the right side of the court, near her team’s bench, and was fouled by Hughes. It was Hughes’ fifth foul, too, and it took the wind out of Oak Grove’s sails.
“They called the silly foul on Lekera there, a touch-foul, and it seemed like we shut down after that for some reason,” Swindle said.
Murrah extended the lead to 41-31 two minutes later and held on for the six-point win.