By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – New Site won the game Friday night, but it was Amite County’s play that earned praise from Lady Royals coach Byron Sparks.
New Site defeated the South’s No. 2 seed 71-59, but not without a struggle on the Mississippi Coliseum floor in the MHSAA Class 2A state tournament semifinals.
“When you’re up 12 or 14, you’ve got to put them away and for whatever reason we couldn’t do that,” Sparks said. “Give (Amite County) credit. They played hard for 32 minutes and I don’t think our kids did.”
Actually, New Site took a 16-point lead into the fourth quarter – 52-36 – only to see it shrink to eight twice down the stretch.
Amite County, which started two freshmen and an eighth grader, made only 2-of-8 free throws in the final 4 minutes after cutting the Lady Royals lead to 62-54.
A layup on a fastbreak by Shelby Stricklen and a putback by Christy Clark were crucial baskets for New Site in the closing minutes.
“They outplayed us,” Sparks said. “They beat us on the boards and beat us to loose balls.”
New Site (31-4) will play the winner of today’s game between Potts Camp and Scott Central at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the championship game.
help from the bench
Grace Elliott, the Lady Royals 6-foot sophomore, came off the bench to scored a team-high 17 points. It’s a role that works best for the Pentiss County team.
“She’s a fresh body who can come in and post up, shoot the 3, handle the ball,” Sparks said. “She does a good job on the top of that press, too.”
Clark, who added 16 points to the Lady Royals’ scoring effort, says Elliott’s presence gives the team a lift.
“She just plays,” Clark said. “She comes in and plays strong every game.”
Elliott, who missed the season’s first 12 games while recovering from a severe head injury suffered in summer softball, scored a career-high 29 points in last week’s North title win against Potts Camp.
Stricklen and Cristin Pharr scored 13 points apiece for New Site. BreAshlee Jones scored 19 to pace Amite County.
Amite County committed 24 turnovers, 16 in the first half and trailed 36-29 at the half.