After both meetings in the regular season resulted in tightly-contested finishes, the Northeast Lauderdale girls basketball refused to let a third contest with Kosciusko go the same way.
The Lady Trojans kept the Lady Whippets off the boards and won numerous matchups in the paint to grind their way to a 51-35 victory in the first round of the Region 4-4A playoffs.
“Our guards handled their pressure, the first half especially,” Northeast Lauderdale head coach Lewis Lightsey said. “Our bigs were assertive enough in getting rebounds, putbacks and blocking two-shots to carry us to the win.”
Brittany Wells scored a team-high 14 points for the Lady Trojans (15-11) and grabbed six rebounds. Mercedez Blanks and Kennedi Jimison eached tallied 10 points, with Jimison adding five rebounds.
“None of us wanted to end it right here,” Wells said. “We wanted to keep going, so we had to play hard the whole time. We had to keep our energy level up, and just play a good game.”
Northeast Lauderdale hit a trio of 3-pointers in the opening quarter, coming from Trinity Anderson, Jimison and Nakya Loyd, to take an early 16-7 lead into the second, where it eventually built a 20-point advantage when Molly Moore drilled a 3 and Wells followed by hauling in an offensive rebounds and scoring a basket.
Kosciusko scored five straight points midway through the third period to cut a 33-16 halftime deficit down to 12, but consecutive buckets from Wells, the latter off another offensive rebound, gave her team a 41-24 lead after three quarters.
“I knew I had to box out and really get in there to help my teammates out and get offensive rebounds and help put points on the board,” Wells said. “It was tough.”
The Lady Trojans sealed the victory with several clutch shots under the basket in the final frame. Jakrya Young earned a game-high 17 points with five rebounds and four blocks for the Lady Whippets (16-10), who scored less than 10 points in the first three quarters and ended with 11 in the last.
“(Young) had 24 points against us the last time we played them here,” Lightsey said. “So we wanted to do a good job of trying to faceguard her and make the other players try to beat us.”
Northeast Lauderdale beat Kosciusko 47-45 on Jan. 14 and lost 37-36 on Jan. 31. The Lady Trojans will host Choctaw Central (24-4) at 4 p.m. Thursday
“I just remind them, ‘Hey, you’ve played a really hard schedule. Just about every team you beat is going to be in the playoffs,’” Lightsey said. “‘And we’re at home. Let’s show everybody how hard we worked this year, and let’s be a playoff team.’ We thought we were going to be one when the season started; this was our opportunity, and they rose to the occasion and did that.”