E.A. Sports Today

Just not enough

Saks plays a game that was good enough to beat most of the teams on its schedule this year, but Locust Fork proved too strong

Saks' Miracle Dennard (20) tries to keep Locust Fork's Carissa Horton from getting the ball up court. On the cover, Bry Browning tries to knock down a high pass. Below, Saks coach Michelle Lively surveys the action. (Photos by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Saks’ Miracle Dennard (20) tries to keep Locust Fork’s Carissa Horton from getting the ball up court. On the cover, Bry Browning tries to knock down a high pass. Below, Saks coach Michelle Lively surveys the action. (Photos by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

By Jason Katz
For East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – With tears in their eyes and the look of disappointment on their faces, the Saks Lady Wildcats tried to collect themselves in more ways than one Wednesday afternoon.

For the first time this season they had to collect themselves from the idea they would not be together as a team after this game, next they had to collect themselves from another fast-approaching reality, losing the in Class 4A Northeast Regional Finals.

The Lady Wildcats battled for most of the game, but as the final seconds crept off the clock, they came up short against Locust Fork 91-76.

The difference in the high-energy game proved to be the start of the third quarter when the Lady Wildcats (27-7) were blinded by a 13-1 run by Locust Fork, who already had were lights-out in high percentage shots and almost perfect in scoring off turnovers.

The Lady Wildcats did not score a field goal until 4:38 remained in the quarter, which spelled doom for their attempt at a comeback and 19-game winning streak.

“We were toe-to-toe against them most of the game tonight,” Saks coach Michelle Lively said. “We played our back side press really well, but we just came out a little flat in the third and on our heels, and they came out and were on their toes. We fell short in the end. It just wasn’t in the cards today.”

The Lady Hornets (32-1) advance to the state semifinals against the Montevallo-Sipsey Valley Central Regional title winner Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the BJCC. It will be their first shot at a title since coach Barbara Roy played in the program.

Locust Fork came out shooting 51 percent to Saks’ 44 percent as the first half proved to be a like a heavyweight boxing match. Both teams took constant blows at each other while creating one of the highest scoring games Saks has seen all season.

“What a high scoring girl’s ballgame,” Lively said. “I think Locust Fork played the best they could play and we did as well. There were times when we stopped doing what we were supposed to, but we scored 76 points, whereas we only averaged all season 45 to 50. We played well, but it was just not enough.”

The start of the second half created enough separation for Locust Fork to pad the lead and survive a fourth quarter charge from Saks. The Lady Wildcats got as close as eight points, but as they would score, the Lady Hornets would score right back.

“Their press was very good, but we have great ball handlers and we pride ourselves on that fact,” Roy said. “We adjusted a little better coming out of the gate at the start of the third and I believe that is what separated us in the end, but Saks is a great team and I think they played well this afternoon.”

The skill and efficiency the Lady Hornets displayed Wednesday was that of a team that will contend for the championship next week. Bob Jones was the only team that solved them this season — and the Lady Hornets missed two late layups or they might have won that one.

Locust Fork was led in scoring by senior Jaime Gail Hudson with 28 points and eight rebounds; she was named MVP. Junior Kim Horton had 20 points, while Madison Cater and Ashlyn Adkins had 14 and 17, respectively. Seven of the eight players who got in the game scored.

“This team is dedicated and so are their parents,” Roy said. “We are not the biggest or fastest team, but we play with a lot of heart and skill in what type of ball we play. It helps us to play so fluid in passing, especially against Saks today.”

Saks was held together by all-tournament picks Maiya Northard and Bry Browning, who scored 19 and 15, respectively, and combined for 10 rebounds. They also got a strong game off the bench from junior TeeTee Jenkins, who scored 18 points and was strong down low with eight rebounds against Hudson.

Locust Fork 91, Saks 76

LOCUST FORK (32-1) – Jaime Gail Hudson 12-18 3-6 28, Kimberly Horton 8-14 3-6 20, Madison Cater 5-14 4-6 14, Ashlyn Adkins 5-10 5-6 17, Carissa Horton 1-5 2-2 5, Madelynn Robinette 1-1 3-4 5, Courtney Fountain 01- 0-0 0, Rachel Baker 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 33-64 20-30 91.

SAKS (27-7) – Taylor Teague 0-1 3-4 3, Jordan Briskey 1-6 8-8 10, Maiya Northard 8-17 1-2 19, BryAnna Browning 7-11 1-2 15, Daja Johnson 2-7 0-0 5, Talisa Christian 0-0 0-0 0, Miracle Dennard 2-10 1-2 6, Tatyana Jenkins 7-11 4-7 18. Totals 27-63 18-25 76.

Locust Fork 21 20 27 23 — 91
Saks 17 20 17 22 — 76

3-point goals: Locust Fork 5-18 (Hudson 1-1, K. Horton 1-3, Cater 0-5, Adkins 2-6, C. Horton 1-3); Saks 4-17 (Teague 0-1, Northard 2-4, Johnson 1-3, Dennard 1-9). Rebounds: Locust Fork 39 (Hudson 8, Adkins 6); Saks 36 (Jenkins 8, Briskey 8). Fouled out: Briskey. Total fouls: Locust Fork 20, Saks 22. Officials: Shedrick Jordan, Bill Young, Clay Calkins.

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