Lady Devils Lose In State Playoff Bid
By Jeff Eubanks
JACKSON – The number three seed that the Lady Devils claimed in the Region-2A North Half playoffs matched them up against the Region-2A number two seed Kemper Co. Wildcats at Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson, Monday Feb. 25 in the first round of the State Tournament. The Devils were unable to advance past the first round for the second time in three years.
The Lady Blue Devils were able to pull out wins in the first two rounds of the North Half playoffs with victories over the Baldwyn Lady Bearcats at Water Valley and the South Delta Lady Bulldogs at host site Byers. The wins pushed the Lady Devils into the semifinals of the North Half playoffs and put them in the situation to win one out of two games in order to make it to the State Tournament.
The Lady Devils took on the Byers Lady Lions Friday, Feb. 22 in their first shot at making it to the tournament. The Lady Devils took a three point lead into the fourth quarter before being blanked 20-4 in the final quarter of play.
“We just ran out of gas,” said Shayne Linzy, head coach of the Lady Blue Devils.
The outside threat of Keke Fondon and Ashley Phillips could not get anything rolling. The backcourt combo was only able to total three points against the Lady Lions’ defense.
Miranda Phillips led all scorers with 16 points. Keta Thomas added 13.
Rachel Jones led the Lady Lions with 15 points, while Symone Gorman was able to score eight with six of those coming down the stretch in the fourth quarter.
The loss put the Lady Devils in a must win situation for their next game if they wanted to make it to the State Tournament. The top three finishers of the North Half playoffs advance to State to play the top three finishers of the South Half. The Lady Devils were looking to lock up that third spot with a win over the Leland Lady Cubs, Saturday, Feb. 23.
A Win to Keep Playing
The taste of defeat did not sit well in the mouths of the Lady Devils. After only outscoring the Lady Cubs by two points in the first quarter the Lady Devils were able to effectively use their press to create turnovers and go on a 16-4 run to close out the half leading 24-10 never relinquishing the lead and advancing to the State Tournament.
“It’s a great feeling, the girls are excited. I am excited,” said Linzy after his team clinched a spot in the tournament.
The Lady Cubs were able to make a stab at coming back with a 7-2 run opening the third quarter, but the Lady Blue Devils were able to cut it short by answering with a 6-0 run of their own.
Water Valley entered the fourth quarter up by 15 points. Even with a 15 point lead Coach Linzy was not ready to celebrate, as he has seen many teams, including his own, make that big of a comeback and steal a win.
“I have seen us come back from being down 15 points against Ripley and advance to the State Tournament. And I have seen Coldwater come back from a double digit lead to beat us. They went to Jackson, we went home. When you get this far in the tournament the game isn’t over until the fourth quarter buzzer goes off,” Linzy reported
M. Phillips and Thomas proved to be dominating forces inside. M. Phillips finished with a game high 12 points and added 10 rebounds. Thomas was able to put in eight points while grabbing 14 boards and serving up three blocks. Despite being shadowed most of the second half, Fondon was able to score 10 points, snag 11 rebounds and dish out four assists for the game.
Kemper Co. was able to leap out to a 9-0 in the opening three and half minutes of play, but the Lady Blue Devils managed to claw back even by halftime. Early fouls by the Lady Wildcats allowed the Lady Blue Devils to get in the bonus early in the second quarter and hit several key free throws. M. Phillips layup off a Weekly steal sent the Lady Devils into halftime tied 27-27.
“I thought we came out a little slow in the first quarter. Then we got calm and played our game and was able to make a game out of it. It just took us a while to get our legs,” said Linzy.
Fondon and M. Phillips were able to pace the Lady Devils in the first half with a combined 20 points. M. Phillips was able to score 11 points while Fondon added nine.
During the third quarter the Lady Blue Devils took their first lead of the night on an A. Phillips 3-pointer, but the Devils were never able to distance themselves by more than two throughout their third quarter run, eventually turning the lead back over heading into the fourth.
Foul trouble and an injured finger kept Miranda Phillips and her inside play on the bench for much of the second half. Her presence was missed most on the boards as the Lady Devils were out-rebounded 19-11 in the final two quarters of play.
The Lady Devils were able to take the lead in the fourth quarter 50-48 at the four and half minute mark, but an 8-2 run by the Lady Wildcats to finish the game defeated the Lady Blue Devils 58-52.
Fondon led the Lady Devils in scoring with 21 points and five rebounds. M. Phillips and Weekly combined for 21 points. Weekly was able to snag three steals and M. Phillips was able to grab five rebounds.
“I could not be prouder of this team. Winning 31 ball games, that’s a lot of ball games,” Linzy said.
“I can’t say enough about those four seniors that I got. They come to practice everyday and play hard. They gave me everything they could. I want to thank them personally for all the sacrifices they have given me, the school, the community and the team,” added Linzy.
The Lady Blue Devils finished the season 31-6.