E.A. Sports Today

Miracle delivers for Saks

UPDATED: Saks uses late defense to beat White Plains; Jacksonville gets balanced scoring to win big

Saks' Miracle Dennard lines up a free throw Wednesday. (Photo by Bridget Merriman)

Saks’ Miracle Dennard lines up a free throw Wednesday. (Photo by Bridget Merriman)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — Saks coach Michelle Lively went looking for a miracle early in Wednesday’s game and found one aptly named.

Freshman point guard Miracle Dennard was inserted when junior Daja Johnson rolled her right ankle four minutes into the game and held the team together when White Plains tried to press the new player on the way to a 64-57 victory in the 4A Area 11 girls tournament.

“She’s the heart and soul … we don’t play without her,” Lively said of Johnson. “Luckily, Miracle took that role tonight. She stepped up.”

“It wasn’t that much pressure,” Dennard said while icing a sore wrist she got from a fall. “I’ve been on varsity since like seventh grade and I’m just used to it. I know I had to step up and be a team leader. I was not ready for it to be over, so I knew I had to step it up.”

The Saks season continues for at least two more games. It now plays second-ranked Jacksonville for the area title Friday at 6 p.m. and is guaranteed a spot in the subregional round.

Dennard wasn’t the only freshman to play a big role for Saks off the bench. Bre Browning relieved some inside perssure in the first half, scoring seven in the second quarter to help her team open a double-digit lead.

“They stepped up to the best of their ability,” Lively said. “They’re not used to being … counted on so much and they had to actually be scorers this time and they did a great job.

“I feel like my strong five on the bench can come off any night, step up and play, like (Dennard). She could be a starter, but she likes to do what she does and she had to step up today and I thought she did a tremdous job.”

A big part of the victory was Saks’ late-game defense. White Plains rallied from 12 down at halftime – 15 in the third quarter — to tie the game at 47 on Amber Greenwood’s basket with 5:30 to play.

But then Saks turned up the pressure. It turned over White Plains on the next five straight possessions and eight times the rest of the game. It converted four of the first five miscues into points and seven of the eight altogether to pull away.

“That’s what we base our stuff on,” Lively said. “Our offense comes from defense. We stayed aggressive right there at the end … and pulled through.”

In addition to the quick hands, Saks moved senior Aliyah Simmons off White Plains outside threat Hannah Barno and onto Greenwood. Actually, it was the senior who requested the switch and she quieted the ailing White Plains ace (foot) who to that point had nailed four 3-pointers in the second half.

“She was on fire and I wanted to be the one to shut her down,” Simmons said. “I just wanted it. This is my senior year and could have possibly been my last game and I just kicked it in. I told myself this wasn’t it; I wasn’t ready for it to be done.”

And she added some offense, to boot. Simmons, Jordan Briskey and Maiya Northard all scored 12 points for Saks. Northard got the bulk of her points finishing off several of the late turnovers.

Greenwood led all scorers with 23 points. Barno had 13 and Carley Wood had 10.

“The kids tried so hard to win, you can’t fault them for that; they were just trying to make plays,” tearful White Plains coach Michael Merriman said.

Jacksonville 91, Cleburne County 41

JACKSONVILLE — Virginia Poe extended the good feeling of her earlier signing day party into 20 points and helped Jacksonville to another one-sided victory.

The second-ranked Golden Eagles play Saks for the area championship Friday at 6 p.m.

Poe formally signed her soccer scholarship with Furman University in the gym shortly after 8 a.m. Wednesday. At 1 p.m. she was back on the same floor scoring 16 points in the game’s first 11 minutes and helping the Eagles (23-4) to an early 34-8 lead.

She had 18 points in the first half.

“It’s been a good day,” she said. “I was still pretty excited. I barely went to school, which is always good for us. I’ve just been in a good mood all day, so that was good to get off to a fast start. It was a great day.”

That big lead allowed Jacksonville coach Ryan Chambless to wholesale substitute his groups, but early on the second wave wasn’t productive and he returned the starters for the final 68 seconds of the half.

The reserves were much stronger the second time through and outscored the Tigers 22-3 in the third.

“I wasn’t real happy with that at first,” Chambless said. “They kind of let them get a pretty good run there and I said we can’t relax. That’s what I addresed at halftime and the third quarter was a whole lot better especially out of the second five.

“I guess sometimes you get a little lead you have a tendency to relax; you cant do that. I want them playing hard no matter what it is – and they did. They responded pretty good.”

Poe was one of four Jacksonville scorers in double figures. Freshman Kyra Williams and Dasia Kirksey each had 16 and Sierra Stone had 12 points and 11 rebounds. None played more than 17 minutes.

Saks 64, White Plains 57

WHITE PLAINS (14-14) — Rian Chandler 0 0-0 0, Carley Wood 4 2-4 10, Hanna Barno 4 2-4 13, Korie Burgess 1 0-0 2, Ann Katherine Dothard 0 0-0 0, Amber Greenwood 8 3-4 23, Shelby Wood 3 3-3 9.
Totals 20 10-15 57.

SAKS – Tayler Teague 1 0-0 2, Aliyah Simmons 5 2-4 14, Jordan Briskey 5 1-2 12, Maiya Northard 5 2-4 12, Miracle Dennard 2 3-4 8, Teetee Jenkins 5 0-0 10, Bre Browning 3 1-3 8, Daja Johnson 0 0-0 0. Totals 26 9-17 64.

White Plains 9 12 21 15 — 57
Saks 10 23 14 17 — 64

3-point goals: White Plains 7 (Barno 3, Greenwood 4); Saks 3 (Briskey, Dennard, Browning). Total fouls: White Plains 15, Saks 15. Officials: Parks, Rager, Williams.

Jacksonville 91, Cleburne County 41

CLEBURNE COUNTY — Chelsea Parker 3-5 6-9 12, Shauntavia Boyd 3-12 2-3 10, Lauren Brown 3-10 2-2 8, Alisa Norton 1-8 4-5 6, Eryka Ware 1-5 1-4 3, Montana Mattox 1-1 0-0 2, Rylee Hiett 0-0 0-2 0, Alex Casey 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 12-42 15-25 41.

JACKSONVILLE (23-4) — Virginia Poe 8-13 2-2 20, Dasia Kirksey 7-11 2-3 16, Kyra Williams 5-9 6-9 16, Sierra Stone 6-10 0-0 12, Brandi Canady 4-10 0-0 8, Malieah Patterson 3-6 0-2 6, Angel Kidd 1-3 2-4 4, Ataliya Morgan 2-6 0-3 4, Aniyah Robinson 1-2 1-2 3, Destiny Easley 1-6 0-0 2, Kelsey Ervin 0-1 0-0 0, Nicole Goodson 0-0 0-0 0, Quenteeria Mooney 0-0 0-0 0, Tatiyana Thomas 0-1 0-0 0, Darrien Martin 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 38-78 13-25 91.

Cleburne County 8 17 3 13 — 41
Jacksonville 24 22 22 23 — 91

3-point goals: Cleburne County 2-9 (Boyd 2-5, Norton 0-4); Jacksonville 2-15 (Poe 2-5, Williams 0-2, Kidd 0-1, Morgan 0-4, Easley 0-3). Rebounds: Cleburne County 32 (Parker 8); Jacksonville 48 (Stone 11). Total fouls: Cleburne County 16, Jacksonville 20. Officials: Parks, Rager, Williams.

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