By Josh Troy
Two upperclasswomen stepped up for Clarksdale High School within the absence of their top scorer to guide their team to a first-round playoff victory Monday night. The Lady Wildcats (24-2, 8-0) earned a 44-29 win at home against Itawamba Agricultural High School.
Sophomore post player Caitlin Hall was not injured, but she was unable to be at Monday night’s game. Nevertheless, senior forward Janya Walker stepped up with 19 points for Clarksdale, while junior guard Shacora Jurden followed with 15.
Clarksdale will face South Pontotoc at 6 p.m. Thursday with a visit to the Class 4A girls basketball State Tournament at Mississippi Valley State University after which the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson on the road.Jurden said everyone stepped up for the Lady Wildcats in Hall’s absence within the win Monday.“We played hard,” she said. “We gave our all. We’re still missing a player, but we stepped up.”
Jurden knew she needed to step up Monday because it was a playoff game, and a loss would have meant elimination for her team.“We didn’t need to go home crying,” she said. “We didn’t have any selection but to step up.”Lady Wildcats coach Greg Wilson praised how his team stepped up in Hall’s absence.“I’m so happy with the ladies tonight for a way they played, the center and the trouble they showed,” Wilson said. “I assumed we played from the opening tip to the ultimate buzzer, and considered one of the things we were telling them tonight was we were going to put it on the road, they usually laid it on the road, and we got here out with a victory.”
Within the Region 3-4A District Tournament games at Yazoo City last week, opponents focused on stopping Hall. When Clarksdale defeated Senatobia 33-15 within the district tournament semifinals, Hall was held to 4 points in the primary half. Nevertheless, sophomore guard Sylenthia Earl and sophomore shooting guard, and small forward Janterria Logan each connected on one 3-pointer in the primary quarter to get things going. Hall was held to 4 points within the 28-19 loss to Gentry within the district tournament championship.
Wilson felt Hall’s teammates stepped up in previous games after they double-teamed her, and it prepared them to play well in her absence on Monday. “I believe it opened up some things to our advantage. Certainly one of the things that opened up was we were in a position to drive and penetrate somewhat more tonight,” Wilson said. “I assumed we shot the ball rather well tonight.”
Wilson said he doesn’t know if Hall will probably be available for Thursday’s game.
Clarksdale jumped out to an 8-3 lead on Monday at the tip of the primary quarter.
A 3-pointer from senior shooting guard Maya Chestnut prolonged the advantage to 11-3 with 7:40 remaining in the primary half. However the Lady Indians went on an 8-2 run to chop Clarksdale’s result in 13-11 with 1:03 remaining in the primary half. A Jurden 2-pointer with 47 seconds to play within the second quarter put Clarksdale ahead 15-11.
Itawamba Agricultural cut Clarksdale’s result in 15-14 within the opening minute of the third quarter, however the Lady Wildcats got here back with 11 unanswered points to increase their advantage to 26-14. Walker scored 6 points on two, 3-point field goals during Clarksdale’s 11-0 run. Jurden scored the opposite 5 points through the run on a 3-pointer and 2-point field goal. The Lady Wildcats led 31-16 with 3:48 to play within the third quarter after a Jurden 2-point field goal.
The Lady Indians got here back with a 9-2 run of their very own to chop Clarksdale’s result in 33-25.
Clarksdale got here back with 8 unanswered points to its own to take a 41-25 with 3:33 remaining in the sport. Walker capped off the run with a 3-point play. She said it was crucial for the Lady Wildcats to have the opportunity to hold on to their leads when Itawamba Agricultural cut into their lead. “We actually needed to pace ourselves because we were already ahead, so we needed to pace ourselves,” she said.
Clarksdale scored 33 and 19 points within the two district tournament games but put 44 on the board Monday night. “We got here in with a unique game plan and desired to speed things up and go somewhat more up-tempo,” said Wilson, adding Clarksdale played a unique style on Monday. “We’ve been practicing on something, and we hadn’t shown so much this yr. And we went to it tonight, and it helped us out.” Chestnut finished with 7 points, while junior guard Ramiyah Brown contributed 4.
PHOTO CUTLINE: Clarksdale senior forward Janya Walker (11) takes the ball to the basket against Itawamba Agricultural High School. Josh Troy photo