E.A. Sports Today

Handley heads to finals

Lady Tigers win an overtime thriller over Oneonta, play New Hope Wednesday for trip to 4A girls Final Four

Handley 50, Oneonta 47 (OT)
New Hope 67, Talladega 29

By Mark Everett Kelly
For East Alabama Sports Today

Oneonta and Handley provided some exciting moments in a back-and-forth Class 4A Northeast Regional battle that extended to overtime. Despite outstanding individual performances by Oneonta, Handley advanced to their third straight Regional Final, 50-47 Saturday.

The Lady Tigers will play New Hope in a rematch of last year’s regional final for a spot in the Class 4A Final Four in Birmingham.

In the first half, Baylor Phillips led both teams with 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting as Oneonta led 23-21. Handley struggled from the field, shooting just 31 percent, but stayed in the game by converting nine turnovers into 11 points. Tateriauna Mosley led the Tigers with 12 points.

Ja’Naya Polk dominated the paint for Oneonta, swatting away six shots while grabbing nine rebounds. Polk helped the Redskins control the boards, out rebounding the Tigers 22-12, including seven offensive rebounds.

In the second half, Polk’s game reached another level, impacting both sides of the ball and turning the contest into her showcase. The 6-foot-5 senior scored seven points, grabbed eight rebounds, blocked five shots, and tallied three assists. 

Polk’s overall triple-double, (10 points, 17 rebounds, 11 blocks, 3 assists) made up for Phillips’ second-half struggles. The senior made just two of nine shots in the second half, scoring only seven points.

“They started to face-guard me, so I tried to get my teammates more involved,” said Phillips, who finished with a team-high 22 points.

Despite struggling to shoot the ball, Handley’s full-court press frustrated the Redskins, forcing them into 22 turnovers leading to 18 points.

“That’s a big part of who we are, playing aggressive defense and getting big steals and points in transition,” said Handley head coach Courtney Screws.

Holding the ball for the last shot in regulation, Za’ Nautika Smith committed an illegal screen, handing the ball back to Oneota with 11 seconds remaining. The Redskins looked disorganized on their final possession, unable to get off a chance at a game-winning shot.

“We planned to get a screen off the top, but nothing came together,” Oneonta said head coach Jill Phillips.

In overtime, Oneonta continued its careless ball handling, turning the ball over twice in the first three possessions. Kristiana Tucker’s 3-point field goal gave the Tigers a brief 45-42 lead with 2:13 remaining, but Phillips answered right back, tying the game with her first 3-point basket and fifth point of the second half.

Akia Brown’s jumper put Handley up with 47-45 with just under 90 seconds left in overtime. Takiera Tucker extended the lead to four, making both foul shots with 28 seconds remaining.

Needing to score points quickly, Oneonta struggled to get off a shot until Phillips drew a foul with 8.7 seconds on the clock. The senior connected on both free throws.

Mosely took center stage with seven seconds left, making the first but missing the second. Racing upcourt after the miss, Oneonta couldn’t get off a game-tying shot, and Handley prevailed.

New Hope’s Kaylee Yarbrough goes up for a layup as Talladega’s Trinity Webb defends. (Photo by Greg Warren)

NEW HOPE 67, TALLADEGA 29: Unlike the opening game between Handley and Oneonta, this game was decided early.

The Indians outscored the Tigers 36-9 in the first half en route to a dominant victory. Their 38-point victory advances them to the Regional Final for the third straight year and second against the Lady Tigers. They’ve played Handley at some point in the regional each of the last three years.

“We feel like we know them and they know us,” New Hope coach Craig McGill said. “Coach (Courtney) Screws does a great job and we know they will be ready for us.”
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New Hope’s exceptional defensive pressure intimidated a young Talladega team (nine sophomores or younger) holding it to 4-of-19 shooting (21 percent) in the first half and 11-of-48 for the game (23 percent).

“It was just a different style of ball game that we did not adjust to well,” said Talladega head coach Rebecca Williams.

Offensively, sophomore Kaylee Yarbrough (21 points, 8-17 FG) and senior Lauren Busbey (18 points, 5-8 from 3) led an explosive offensive effort as the Indians scored at least 13 points in every quarter.

Talladega couldn’t keep New Hope off the offensive boards early, producing 22 second-chance points for the game.

While advancing to the Regional Finals matters, the Indians set their expectations higher this year. 

“I’ve coached them in middle school and high school and been with them for five years now, and we’ve won everything except the state championship and that’s what we are trying to get to,” McGill said.

ONEONTA (20-9) –
 Angela Covarrubias 1-3 0-0 2, Madalan Robertson 3-14 0-0 7, Lily Wilson 2-5 0-0 4, Baylor Phillips 9-19 2-2 22, JaNya Polk 4-7 2-3 10, Kylee Smith 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 20-49 4-5 43.
HANDLEY (24-7) – Akia Brown 5-14 1-2 12. Takeriauna Mosley 8-24 4-5 22, Takeira Tucker 2-12 2-2 6, Iyanna Norman 1-2 0-0 2, ZaNautika Smith 1-4 0-0 2, Jodazalyn Fuller 0-2 0-0 0, Kristiana Tucker 2-4 0-0 6, Millie Greer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-62 7-9 50.
Oneonta           12        11        7          10        7 –       47
Handley           12        9          10        9          10 –      50
3-point goals: Oneonta 3-10 (Robertson 1-5, Phillips 2-5); Handley 5-12 (Brown 1-3, Mosley 2-5, Tucker 2-4). Rebounds: Oneonta 43 (Polk 17); Handley (Tucker 4). Total fouls: Oneonta 12, Handley 10. Officials: Bruner, McQueen, Burroughs.

NEW HOPE (21-5) —
Kaylee Lebon 3-5 0-0 6, Jada Bates 5-9 1-1 11, Lauren Busbey 6-11 1-2 18, McKinley Keel 0-7 0-0 0, Kaylee Yarbrough 8-17 2-4 21, Atlanta Copeland 0-0 0-0 0, Ansley Sadler 0-0 0-0 0, Sadie Saxon 0-0 0- 0, Elijah McCollum 0-3 0-0 0, Malaina Cloud 0-0 0-0 0, Eevy Bellar 4-8 0-0 8, Lily Dewberry 1-1 0-0 3, Keyari Moore 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-61 4-7 67.
TALLADEGA (21-7) — Trinity Webb 6-19 1-2 13, Kailynn Williams 1-5 0-0 2, Houston Goins 1-7 1-2 3, Zae Cunningham 2-10 5-8 9,, Makayla White 0-5 0-0 0, Justasia Pointer 0-1 0-0 0, Jekeria Wilson 0-0 0-0 0, Destiny Twymon 0-0 0-0 0, Kalyria Massingale 1-1 0-3 0. Totals 11-48 7-15 29.
New Hope           23      13       15     16        –       67
Talladega          5        4          13       7        –      29
3-point goals: New Hope 9-25 (Bates 0-1, Busbey 5-8, Keel 0-5, Yarbrough 3-8, Bellar 0-2, Dewberry 1-1); Talladega 0-6 (Webb 0-1, Williams 0-2, Goins 0-2, Cunningham 0-1). Rebounds: New Hope 47 (Lebon 13, Bellar 9); Talladega 31 (Webb 12, White 8). Total fouls: New Hope 14, Talladega 10. Officials: Bruner, McQueen, Southerland.

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