E.A. Sports Today

These girls just want to have fun

Relaxed Saks rolls into regionals; defense, free throws help Lady Wildcats cruise to their 18th straight victory

By Jason Katz
For East Alabama Sports Today

Three hours before the Saks girls basketball team was scheduled to take the court against Northeast Sub-Regional opponent Crossville Monday night, the players sat at midcourt of their gym and played board games, ate together and even sang to each other while having fun and preparing for what was ahead of them.

The Lady Wildcats were getting loose for their game and if anything spells trouble for an opponent of Saks, being loose is usually a recipe for disaster for anyone playing them.

The Lady Wildcats easily handled Crossville 65-49 to advance to the Northeast Regionals in Jacksonville for the first time in four years. They will play Westminster Christian Saturday at 2 p.m. in Pete Mathews Coliseum.

“We just came into this game with a better focus and were a little more relaxed than the past few games,” Saks coach Michelle Lively said. “Before the game we got back in the rhythm of being together and having fun. I think with the changes we’ve made since our last game it really showed up tonight against a good Crossville team.”

Having fun is something Saks has done ever since the Christmas break, which is when they last lost a game. Since then, during their 18-game winning streak, the Lady Wildcats (26-6) have strived on playing quick and loose basketball with an emphasis on suffocating defensive play that was evident Monday night.

“We really are a big family,” senior Jordan Briskey said. “When we are having fun, we play better, as most teams do, but for us it really is a matter of feeling comfortable with each other and responding to the body language and rhythm that we each give off. All that together makes us a stronger team.”

Briskey led the charge for Saks as she scored 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds as she and her teammates rolled over opponents on both sides of the ball. The Lady Wildcats shot 74 percent from the line (32-of-43), which all but eliminated Crossville from getting any type of handle on the score. Briskey was 11-of-14, including making her last nine in a row.

Daja Johnson also had 17 points and was 6-for-6 in free throws in the fourth quarter. Bry Browning scored 12 with eight rebounds while Maiya Northard had nine and Taylor Teague eight.

The story of the night though was Saks’ defense. Crossville could not get the ball into the middle of the court the entire evening as the double team and full court press by the Lady Wildcats kept them in the corners and out of the paint. The team that lived and died by the 3-pointer Monday did not get consecutive baskets all night.

“We did a great job of keeping them out of rhythm all night,” Lively said. “They are a team that depends on rhythm and 3-pointers and we did a great job of keeping them out of it tonight.”

Crossville (25-7) was led in scoring by Kaitlyn May’s 12 points, all of which were three pointers. Lily Hawkins had 11 points with seven rebounds, while Cassie McDaniel had eight points with six rebounds.

Saks was able to make the baskets count Monday when needed and played intense defense the entire game. As they move on to Jacksonville they look to continue to play loose and just have fun.

“There isn’t much more I can do as far as teaching is concerned this season,” Lively said. “We just need to play to win and play to have fun because really that is what it’s about. Jacksonville is like home to us so we should be ready to go come Saturday.”

Saks 65, Crossville 49

CROSSVILLE (25-7) – Kaitlyn May 4 0-0 12, Kelli Rush 0 0-0 0, Keestan Bobo 0 1-2 1, Iva Luther 0 0-0 0, Makenzie Wilks 1 0-0 2, Hadley Hamilton 2 0-0 6, Lily Hawkins 3 4-4 11, Madison Hunt 0 0-0 0, Josie Hughes 1 2-2 4, Haley Stephens 2 0-0 5, Cassie McDaniel 4 0-1 9. Totals 17 7-8 49.

SAKS (26-6) – Talisa Christian 0 0-0 0, Tayler Teague 2 4-4 8, Jordan Briskey 3 11-14 17, Maiya Northard 2 3-6 9, Miracle Dennard 0 0-0 0, TeeTee Jenkins 1 1-2 3, Bry Browning 4 4-7 10, Daja Johnson 3 9-10 17. Totals 15 32-43 65.

Crossville 9 15 13 12 — 49
Saks 18 20 10 17 — 65

3-point goals: Crossville 8 (May 4, Hamilton 2, Hawkins, Stephens); Saks 3 (Northard, Johnson 2). Fouled out: McDaniel, Hawkins. Total fouls: Crossville 23, Saks 15. Officials: Scott, Garner, Peavey.

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