Lady Devils knock off Titans
Aryah Hazley led West Memphis in scoring with 20 points in the victory
WM School District The West Memphis Lady Devils clinched a berth in the Class 6A state tournament, and given the way they have played lately and the fact that the tournament is at Lehr Arena, they may be a very tough out.
The Lady Devils (15-13) ran up a 24-point lead at one point and then let Jacksonville back in the game before holding on for a 64-53 victory Saturday in the first round of the 6AEast Conference tournament.
West Memphis' girls will travel to Jonesboro Tuesday night to play the top-seeded Lady Hurricane in the semifinals.
Head coach Shelia Burns' club fed off last Thursday's solid outing in a 66-58 loss at Nettleton, one of the top Class 5A teams in the state, and threatened to run the Lady Titans off the Lehr court.
'We played good at Nettleton and I thought we played well tonight except for that stretch at the end of the third quarter into the fourth quarter,' said Burns. 'I like the way we're playing right now.'
The Lady Devils never trailed against Jacksonville (13-15), but they led only 28-21 at halftime. They took a cue from their boys counterparts in the third quarter, though. West Memphis came out of the locker room at halftime and went on an 18-3 run to start the second half to stretch their lead to 46-23 with 2:16 to play in the third quarter.
'That was as well as we've played all year,' Burns added.
Figuring the 23-point lead was at least enough to give her starters some rest, Burns subbed out three starters and Jacksonville pounced on the opportunity.
The Titans immediately scored the next 11 points thanks to five turnovers over the next six West Memphis possessions.
Asked if she was worried at that point, Burns said, 'Yeah, I was worried.
There was still plenty of time to play, but I felt we just needed to get back to doing what we'd been doing.'
Jacksonville sliced the Lady Devils lead to 52-44 with 4:53 to play.
A free throw and a basket off a steal by senior guard Tatyana Burks and a layup by sophomore center Tierra Bradley righted the West Memphis ship, stretching the hosts' lead to 56-44 with 3:09 left.
Burks and Bradley each scored 10 points. But the Lady Devil offense, as it had most of the regular season, was carried by sophomore point guard Aryah Hazley, who paced the winners with 20 points. But it was Bradley who dominated the lanes with several rebounds, blocked shots and great outlet passes leading to Lady Devil transition baskets.
'We had an officiating crew we haven't seen before this year and we had to tell them that (Bradley) goes straight up at 6-foot-4 and she doesn't jump,' Burns said, referring to the blocked shots.
'T-Baby gets called for a lot of fouls when she blocks shots, but if you haven't seen her before you have to be aware that she doesn't jump into the opposing player.'
Two other Lady Devils also played a huge role in the victory. Senior Kyla Proctor and junior Kenya Freeman each scored 9 points.
Jacksonville's Shymaryia Christopher was the game's top scorer with 26 points while Deshundra Shockley chipped in 13.
The Lady Devils offset 20 turnovers by outrebounding Jacksonville 39-30.
They connected on 14 of 24 shots in the first half and 10 of 25 in the second half.
By Billy Woods