Dana Buchanan said her team was exhausted heading into Friday’s regular-season finale.
Wednesday's tornado, and the subsequent weather that hit the area, kept the Southeast Lauderdale girls basketball team awake most of the night, and their game Thursday — a 35-point win over Morton on senior night — wiped them out for their second Region 5-3A matchup with Kemper County the next day.
Still, the host Lady Tigers scraped by and were able to fend off a fourth-quarter comeback by the Lady Wildcats and held on for 65-62 victory to claim the top seed in next week’s district tournament.
“I know, mentality and physically, that I was so tired before the day even started, and I know if I’m that tired, they’re probably tired, too,” said Buchanan, whose house sustained damage from the storm. “I sent out a group message at 12:30 (a.m.) to check on kids, and almost every one of them answered me, and then they talked back and forth, telling me stuff until almost 2 o’clock in the morning. I couldn’t get them to go to bed, so I know they didn’t sleep.”
Kenyata Walker and Turshanna Alford each scored a team-high 14 points for Southeast (19-6, 9-1), while J’Nyah Moore had 12 points off the bench and Shakira Wilson added 10 points and five assists.
Chantel Stringfellow led Kemper County (13-13, 8-2) with a game-high 27 points, scoring 21 in the second half. Jasmine Harris added 14 points and seven rebounds.
The Lady Tigers handed the Lady Wildcats an 84-46 loss in their first meeting on Jan. 28, and the contest’s start had the makings of another blowout as Southeast opened the game on a 9-0 run and led by 10 in the first quarter. Kemper County didn’t let its deficit dwell, however, as it scored seven straight points at the end of the opening period and then took a 20-19 lead with 4:15 to play in the first half.
A 3-pointer by Moore helped the Lady Tigers outscore their opponent 12-2 in the remainder of the second quarter to hold a 31-22 advantage at intermission.
Ten points from Alford in the third, and a 3 by Wilson, pushed Southeast’s lead out to its largest of the contest at 53-32 with 1:40 left in the period before Stringfellow made a bucket and followed up by going 8-for-8 at the free-throw line to score 10 consecutive points for Kemper County and make it a 10-point game heading into the final frame.
The Lady Wildcats narrowed the margin further in the fourth quarter, and a 3-point play by Harris with a minute to play in regulation got her team within one at 61-60. After Moore hit both her shots at the line, Harris scored again to make it 63-62 with 14.7 seconds left. Wilson then made two free throws off an intentional foul with 11.2 ticks remaining, and the Southeast defense kept Kemper County from getting a clean look from the perimeter as time expired.
“I didn’t really feel like we came out flat, I just felt like we were a little tired, and sometimes that’s hard to overcome,” Buchanan said. “I thought we did a really good job of fighting hard down the stretch when we had to. I asked a lot (out) of my starters tonight; they played a lot of minutes. They played a lot of minutes (Thursday) night, too.”
Southeast has a first-round bye in the 5-3A playoffs and will be in action again Thursday at 4 p.m.