New Albany hit their first major bump in their road to redemption during the Region 1-4A Tournament at Itawamba Community College on Wednesday in the form of the Itawamba AHS Lady Indians.
The Lady Indians handed New Albany a 78-66 road loss in late January that left a bitter taste in the mouths of Coach John Stroud and company, but their would be no repeat the second time around.
The Lady Bulldogs were ready to hit the cruise control as they led the Lady Indians as 63-51 with 3:53 left in the fourth quarter, but Itawamba rallied with a 14-2 run to tie the contest 65-65 on a Anna Dill three-pointer with just over twenty-five seconds left to play.
New Albany broke the Itawamba press to find Kebrina Lewis on the backside for a lay-up, but a trio of Lady Indians swarmed the sophomore and fouled with 17.7 seconds left on the clock in hopes to pick up a pair of missed free throws instead of giving up an easy basket.
Lewis got two points anyway as she buried a pair of free throws to give the Lady Bulldogs 67-65 advantage.
Itawamba quickly worked the ball down the floor to find Noel Prestage in the corner for an open three, but Jasmine Spears saved the day as she blocked the sharp-shooting senior’s shot out of bounds with 9 seconds left.
The Lady Indians found Marquita Young on the ensuing inbounds play, but her shot came up short allowing Spears to grab the rebound and knock down one-of-two from the free throw line after being fouled with three seconds left in the contest.
Itawamba slipped on the inbounds play after the made free throw and only managed a shot from well beyond half court allowing the Lady Bulldogs pick up the 68-65 victory.
“We showed our inexperience in the last three minutes of the game, but a lot of that credit goes to Itawamba because they have a really good team. This was a quality win for us,” Coach John Stroud said.
Lewis led all-scorers with 25 points.
“Kebrian really stepped up and played well for us today, but the difference was our girls played the whole game and the last time we played them over there they didn’t,” Stroud said.
Tierra Lucas and Micha Washington scored 11 points each, Spears 5, Porche White 4, and Paris Sanders added 2 points for the Lady Bulldogs while Prestage scored 23 points for Itawamba AHS.
The win puts New Albany in the championship game against Center Hill at Friday 6:30 p.m. at Itawamba Community College as the Mustangs represent the final bump in the road for the Lady Bulldogs. Center Hill went on a 16-0 run to close out the game and hand New Albany a 50-49 loss to close the regular season.
The win also ensured New Albany a home game on Monday for the play-in game of the North State tournament where a win would make historic New Albany gymnasium the host site for the 4A North State Girls Tournament.