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Tenaha trips Big Sandy in Area final, 54-52
By LINDA JACOBS
HUDSON—Teams can either live or die by the 3-pointer. Unfortunately for Big Sandy, a 3-pointer by Tenaha's Jalysa Steadman with :29 seconds left in the ballgame nailed down a 54-52 win for the Lady Tigers in the Class 1A Division 1 Area championship Friday at Hudson High School. The two teams battled throughout all four quarters with 15 lead changes and eight ties, including four knotted scores in the final frame. Big Sandy had entered the final frame down by three (44-41) but quickly tied it on a trey by senior Nicole Langley with 7:24 on the clock. Tenaha answered with an inside bucket by Tierra Henderson to go up 46-44 with 6:56 left. The Ladycats would score two unanswered hoops to take a 48-46 lead. First, senior Brooklyn Battise got a key rebound and converted a layup on the other end to knot the game 46-all at the 6:08 mark. Freshman Aleia Williams put the Ladycats in front 48-46 with a putback shot under the goal with 5:41 on the clock. The Lady Tigers matched the Big Sandy effort and hit a pair of free throws followed by an inside hoop by 5'11" Eboni Moore to give the Tigers a 50-48 lead with 3:41 left in the game. Defensive pressure and a tipped ball by Whittney Tolar put the ball in the hands of Brooklyn Battise who was fouled on a baseline drive. She pitched in both free throws to tie the game at 50-all with 3:08 on the clock. Both teams missed opportunities at the charity stripe with under two minutes to play. After a miss by Tenaha at the 1:30 mark, Camille Johnson got the rebound and tossed to Battise who went coast to coast for a layup to give the 'Cats a 52-50 lead with 1:17 left in the game. Defensive pressure by Battise forced the Tigers into a turnover. A Tenaha foul went unanswered as the 'Cats missed at the line with :45 seconds left. Tenaha rebounded and moved the ball down court. Jalysa Steadman, who finished the game with a team high 16 points, tossed the ball up and connected the trey to put the Tigers on top 53-52 with :29 seconds left. Big Sandy missed on their next offensive series and Moore rebounded for the Tigers. The Ladycats were forced to foul and Shantivia Gray hit the first of two freebies to extend the lead to 54-52 with :13 seconds left. With 8:22 seconds left Big Sandy head coach Ryan Alec called for a timeout. The Ladycats had been in this situation twice during District 24A action and twice had pulled off 3-point shots to defeat Evadale to win the district championship. A third time was not to be however, and destiny fell on the side of Tenaha. Big Sandy attempted one 3-pointer and then had a chance with a rebound under the goal but both shots came up empty and Tenaha prevailed with a 54-52 victory. Proud coach Big Sandy head coach Ryan Alec, who is in his second year with the Ladycats, could not have been more proud of his team's effort "I told the kids to not let this one game summarize their season. They had a great season and can hold their heads high. "We went undefeated in district and really had the odds stacked against us because we had two starters go down with torn ACL's this year." Juniors Kierra Williams and Jaycie Williams will both be back next year for the Ladycats. With two starters out of the lineup Coach Alec bragged on the team stepping up to fill the void. "They'll be back for us next year, but we had girls step in and pick up the slack and we were able to go 10-0 to win district." Senior leadership There have been some remarkable Ladycats to play over the years but seniors Nicole Langley and Brooklyn Battise can stand among the best. "Those two seniors are great leaders. They work hard," bragged Coach Alec. "They set the bar for us every single day in practice and I can't stress enough about how much their leadership helped drive our team. "With those two leading our team, they took us to places people didn't think they could get us to." Brooklyn Battise was the game's leading scorer with 23 points. She had seven field goals, two 3-pointers and hit 3-of-4 free throws. Langley connected two field goals, one trey and 5-of-6 free throws to finish with 12 points. Junior Whittney Tolar pitched in six points, followed by Madison Green with five points; Aleia Williams scored four points and Tahwnee Williams added two points for the Ladycats. Tenaha finished with three players in double digits. Behind Steadman's team high 16 was Shantivia Gray with 15 and Eboni Moore with 12 points. Tenaha outscored Big Sandy 16-13 in the first. Battise scored six for Big Sandy, followed by Tolar who pitched in four points. Langley and Madison Green combined to score 11 of their 17 second quarter points. Langley hit two buckets and two freebies and Green hit one trey and a basket. Battise had the hot hand in the third frame, scoring nine of Big Sandy's 11 points. The 'Cats were down 33-30, but that changed when Battise hit a pair of treys. Battise also dished to Aleia Williams for the other two points in the frame.
Nicole Langley (15) drives the baseline for Big Sandy
Brooklyn Battise (22) scores a layup for the Ladycats
Whittney Tolar (32) attempts to block a shot by Tenaha