E.A. Sports Today

Shy soph lifts J’ville into Final Four

UPDATED: Stone goes for 19 points, 20 rebounds as Golden Eagles beat Locust Fork

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — Sierra Stone isn’t going to say a lot in interviews, but she sure says a lot on the floor with her game.

Stone scored 19 points and grabbed 20 rebounds to help the Golden Eagles beat Locust Fork 75-70 and reach the Final Four for the first time since their 2012 state championship.

Players say the Jacksonville sophomore is quite chatty around her teammates and friends, but as she sat in the spotlight after being named MVP of the girls 4A Northeast Regional Wednesday she was a shy as the new kid in school.

“I was shocked (to get the MVP award),” she said, “because I’ve got too good players in front of me (Virginia Poe and Angel Kidd) and I thought they were going to get it.”

Poe and Kidd did make the all-regional team, but they didn’t have the impact of Stone. Poe also scored 19 points and Kidd had 18. Dasia Kirksey added 13 points and nine boards.

It was at least Stone’s third 20-rebound game of the season. Eleven of her boards against the Hornets came on the offensive end, including three straight putbacks of Poe misses that extended their halftime lead. Stone was in such perfect position Poe should have claimed an assist with each of the misses.

“I told her before this game you’re going to have 20 and 20 if you work your butt off and I see right here (in the stat sheet) she had 20 and 19,” said Poe, who feigned uncertainty that Stone is only a sophomore. “There aren’t many girls teams around who have two great post players, and we do. … When I’m jacking up all those 3s — and missing them — I know she’s going to be there to rebound or at least she’s going to work hard to rebound them.”

It’s that work ethic, Golden Eagles coach Ryan Chambless said, that has made all the difference for Stone this season.

“Some big girls, they don’t work hard; she works really hard inside,” he said. “She goes after every shot offensively and defensively. She’s gotten a lot better as the year’s gone on getting that position to rebound as the ball’s being shot and not after the fact.

“Early on she would wait and get a lot of over-the-back (fouls) but she’s learned to make that move a lot quicker. I think she’s improved tremendously over the year. … She’s just shy.”

The win sends the second-ranked Golden Eagles (28-4) to face UMS-Wright in Tuesday’s 6 p.m. semifinal at the BJCC where Stone is expected to battle with 6-3 Bulldogs junior Ashley Scott.

Jacksonville’s senior starters said they prepped Stone for the media onslaught that awaited after the game, but it didn’t help. The shy sophomore maintained her polite responses.

“I think we worked hard and I did, too,” she said.

She didn’t come any farther out of her shell when Poe and Kidd came over to ask the questions. But then she doesn’t have to win the press conference.

“I can name you a lot of guys I played football with in high school at Alexandria that didn’t say a word but when they hit the field you thought who in the world is this guy,” Chambless said. “She’s just a good kid, and when she plays, she competes. She’s learned from Virginia and Angel and those seniors that competitive mentality.”

While Stone and the Golden Eagles were dominating the inside, the only way for Locust Fork (19-12) to stay in the game was to stay outside the arc. The Hornets were 9-of-23 from 3-point range, and it seemed every time they needed a big basket they got a 3.

“We knew they could shoot the ball really well,” Chambless said. “They made 3s, you’ve got to give them a lot of credit (but) I felt like we were stronger inside and probably deeper.

“Playing against them, the way they shoot the ball, you can be up 10 and it’s really not that big of a lead. We were just trying to hold the ball a bit and slow the game down and try to work it inside towards the end … because they can score so quick.”

Jacksonville 75, Locust Fork 70

JACKSONVILLE (28-4) – Virginia Poe 6-20 5-7 19, Angel Kidd 6-10 5-9 18, Destiny Easley 0-3 0-0 0, Sierra Stone 8-14 3-4 19, Dasia Kirksey 6-7 1-1 13, Kyra Williams 2-6 1-3 5, Ataliya Morgan 0-0 1-2 1, Brandi Canady 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-60 16-26 75.

LOCUST FORK (19-12) – Jaime Hudson 4-9 1-2 11, Kimberly Horton 3-10 10-10 16, Madison Cater 6-12 0-0 14, Ashlyn Adkins 4-8 5-7 16, Carissa Horton 2-7 0-0 4, Madelynn Robinette 2-5 1-2 5, Courtney Fountain 0-1 0-0 0, Rachael Baker 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 22-53 17-21 70.

Jacksonville 16 14 24 21 — 75
Locust Fork 8 19 20 23 — 70

3-point goals: Jacksonville 3-14 (Poe 2-10, Kidd 1-2, Easley 0-1, Williams 0-1); Locust Fork 9-23 (Hudson 2-4, K. Horton 0-2, Cater 2-5, Adkins 3-5, C. Horton 2-4, Robinette 0-1, Fountain 0-1). Rebounds: Jacksonville 42 (Stone 20, Kirksey 9); Locust Fork 29 (Cater 6). Total fouls: Jacksonville 15, Locust Fork 17. Officials: Henderson, Childs, Reyes.

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