No.1 Hoggard 38 No. 4 Ashley 36
Emotions were running high during Thursday’s semifinal matchup between the Hoggard and Ashley girls’ basketball teams. In their eighth contest over the last two seasons, a pair of free throws by Tara Poteat in the final seconds proved to be the difference for the Vikings in a 38-36 victory at Brunswick Community College.
The win was Hoggard’s 20th of the season and third result over the Screaming Eagles in four tries this year. Poteat scored six of eight points during the fourth quarter, while Alani Fisher led all scorers with 17 points and eight rebounds.
“We were mentally strong tonight and knew it was going to be that kind of game,” said Hoggard Coach Boubacar Aw. “I’m proud of the way my girls fought. It’s a rivalry game and give credit to Ashley for having a good game plan. We turned the ball over entirely way too much and need to be better tomorrow.”
Trailing by three after two foul shots by Dana Craig, Fisher knocked down her second trey of the night with just over one minute left to tie the game, 36-36. A defensive foul with 17.2 seconds on the clock put Poteat at the free throw line as the junior point guard sank the front end of a one-and-one and hit the second attempt before one final try by Ashley fell short at the buzzer.
Back-to-back buckets by Craig to close the third quarter put the Screaming Eagles in front, 28-27. Serenity Williams drove the lane for her only field goal to open the scoring in the final frame for a three-point advantage, while Ashley closed a 9-0 push at the seven minute mark for a two-possession lead.
Poteat responded with four straight points, including a steal and coast-to-coast lay-in to bring Hoggard to within two. A steal by Emma Haywood on the next possession and assist to Aleah Thompson made it 33-all.
“We ask Tara [Poteat] to do so much,” Aw added. “She’s our best defender, our ball handler and tonight she was our playmaker. It’s a tough position to play and she knows that. She doesn’t let anything get her down and is so mentally strong.”
Craig and Lovitt shared team-high honors with 10 points apiece for Ashley. Angel Smith also pulled down eight rebounds.
The Screaming Eagles went ahead 7-0 in the first quarter, but Hoggard used a 13-0 run to close the period with a six-point edge. Fisher hit from beyond the arc to end the spurt with a 13-7 advantage.
Lovitt started to get going with a three-pointer, steal and lay-in to cut Ashley’s deficit to one. The junior guard also hit from long range later in the first half, scoring eight of her 10 points in the quarter. A bank shot by Morgan Carpenter made it 21-all at the break.
Hoggard moved to 20-5 overall and look to clinch its second straight Mideastern Conference Tournament Championship against New Hanover at 6 p.m. on Friday.
No. 2 New Hanover 43 No. 3 Laney 29
The New Hanover girls’ basketball team used a big run midway through the third quarter to advance in the Mideastern Conference Tournament following a 43-29 win over Laney at Brunswick Community College on Thursday night.
Lexi Melville hit from long range to put the Lady Bucs up by one with four minutes left in the third period, but New Hanover went on a 9-0 spurt to grab a 32-24 advantage as the Wildcats outscored Laney 24-10 after the break. Ayonna Cotten had a game-high nine points and knocked down a pair of three-pointers, including her second trey with 5:44 left in regulation to put New Hanover in front, 37-27.
“It’s a good win,” said New Hanover Coach Vertha Dixon-Wright. “We knew it was going to be a struggle. It’s the fourth time we played them this season and they certainly showed they were ready to play. We had a so-so start, but we went back to our full court press and played a much better second half.”
The decisive spurt included a three-pointer from Cotten, along with four points from Essence Newkirk. Azariah Fields also got a runner to fall as Laney hit a lengthy scoring drought before Melville sank a free throw to keep it a seven point deficit headed into the final period.
Michelle Jacobs drained two baseline jumpers in the fourth quarter to help New Hanover extend its lead, while Fields and Amani Muhammad finished with eight points apiece.
“It was good to see some of the kids that we don’t rely on to do this and do that to step up,” Dixon-Wright added. “They kind of went cold in the fourth and that helped a little, but it was a good win tonight and just talked about looking at tomorrow’s game.”
The Wildcats swept all four games against Laney this season. New Hanover led 19-7 late in the first half when the Bucs used a 12-0 run to close the second quarter and tie the game, 19-all. Anna Porcelli had a three-pointer, coast-to-coast lay-in and buzzer-beating layup to even the score at the break.
Laney fell to 15-11 overall and await their seed for the upcoming 4A state playoffs.
New Hanover moved to 19-6 heading into the Mideastern Conference Tournament Finals against Hoggard on Friday. Tip-off is slated for 6 p.m. at Brunswick Community College. The Wildcats have dropped three games to the Vikings this season.
“The girls said they don’t want to take a beating tomorrow,” said Dixon-Wright. “It’s like the school yard bully. Every day you step out there and he tries to take your lunch money, it’s time to fight back.”