By David Wheeler
Special to the Journal
TUPELO – The Tupelo Lady Wave were in a position Thursday to taste victory against the No. 1 team in the state.
Carrying a five-point lead into the final quarter, the Lady Wave eventually fell victim to the more experienced Horn Lake Lady Eagles 59-52 in a great warmup for the Class 6A playoffs in the final week of the regular season.
“Horn Lake proved tonight they are the best team in the state,” said Lady Wave head coach Matt Justice, whose team is ranked No. 1 in the area by the Daily Journal. “We correct a few things, and we belong with them.”
Both Horn Lake (21-1) and Tupelo (23-2) had already clinched their respective division titles. So this contest had no other impact but for the Lady Wave to introduce themselves to a state tournament semifinalist from a season ago.
Tupelo certainly got Horn Lake’s attention in the third quarter.
Trailing by three coming out of the intermission, Tupelo began the third quarter on a 9-0 run. Braxton Thomas contributed two free throws, and her steal and layup gave the Lady Wave a 34-28 lead.
Olivia Cunningham then reeled off seven straight points for the Lady Eagles, giving the visitors a 36-34 margin. Back came the Lady Wave, closing the period on an 8-1 run. Asia Partlow had two field goals in the spurt, and Alayjah Sherer’s basket in the closing seconds gave Tupelo a 42-37 lead.
“We had some big plays on defense in the fourth quarter, and got some rebounds when we were tired,” Horn Lake head coach Janna Thompson said. “I’d call this a quality win for us going into the post-season, but a win that carries no weight.”
A 10-0 effort to begin the final period by the Lady Eagles was good for a 47-42 lead. Back came Tupelo, with Sherer scoring on an in bounds situation with 3 minutes, 41 seconds to play for a 48-47 Lady Wave lead.
A’Queen Hayes quickly hit a driving lay up to put Horn Lake back in front 49-48. Tupelo was still within a possession of the lead at 55-52 with 1:01 to play, but Horn Lake was able to hold on for the win.
“Horn Lake was able to get some deflections in the fourth quarter, and get out and run,” Justice said. “Ultimately, it came down to free throws.”
Bre Jernigan’s 15 points paced Tupelo, which shot only 5 of 13 from the line in the second half. Cunningham and Alondrea Rush each had 20 for Horn Lake.
(B) Tupelo 54, Horn Lake 53: Tupelo never led in the second half until Antonio Green hit a 3-pointer with 1:15 left in the contest for a 52-51 lead.
Green paced Tupelo with 20, and Isaiah Traylor chipped in 14.
Horn Lake led 43-33 entering the fourth quarter.