Photo by Jerry Jackson
Drew senior Precious Person (5) tries to drive around Hephzibah’s Tiffani Harrison during the first half of the Class AAA playoff game on Friday. Person finished with 24 points, but the ninth-ranked Lady Titans lost 66-65 to end its season.
Making their second straight appearance in the Class AAA state tournament, the Drew Lady Titans aimed to advance deep and contend for the championship in only their second season as a varsity program.
However, visiting Hephzibah rallied on Friday in the fourth quarter and edged Drew 66-65 in the opening round of the state tournament.
Hephzibah improves to 18-7 overall and while Drew has its season conclude at 23-5 overall.
“It was a good game that came down to who wanted it more, so this is a tough pill to swallow,” Drew coach Candence Jackson said. “We did not do a good job in closing out their shooters and they hit some big shots down the stretch.”
Hephzibah trailed 55-50 at the end of the third quarter, and trailed twice by as many as nine points. However, Shanice Williams scored on a put back and Tiffani Harrison converted two free throws with seven seconds remaining to trim the Lady Titans’ lead to five points.
Behind the strong play of senior wing Precious Person, Drew extended its lead early in the fourth quarter. Person converted a jumper from the free throw line, and her 3-point play at the 4:16 mark gave the Lady Titans a 62-55 lead. But Hephzibah responded with a big 9-0 run.
Consecutive 3-point baskets by Daeundra Jordan and Harrison put Hephzibah ahead by two points. Harrison’s 3-point basket made the Hephzibah lead 64-62 with 1:38 remaining.
Drew tied the game on put-back with Jecoya Knowles at the 1:05 mark following a Hephzibah turnover. But Hephzibah regained the lead on a baseline jumper by Jordan with 29 seconds remaining.
Person was fouled with nine seconds remaining, giving Drew the chance to possibly tie. She made the first free throw, but missed the second.
The Lady Titans fouled Harrison with six seconds remaining, but she missed the front end of the 1-and-1, giving Drew one last chance.
Person caught the side pass from Lakyha Sims, but missed an off-balanced baseline jumper as time expired. For Hephizbah, it was all about the rallies. The Rebels trailed early in each quarter, only to come back late and pressure Drew.
“Getting those shots down the stretch was very critical,” Hephzibah coach Wendell Lofton said. “What a great game it was, and we didn’t give up. Tiffani (Harrison) simply played a great game, and that wing (Person) for them is tremendous.”
The defeat marked the end of a decorated career for the 6-foot-2 Person, who paced Drew with 24 points, and will continue her career at Rutgers. Shaleya Winfrey scored 16 points for the Lady Titans, followed by Sims with 15 points.
“She (Person) is one of a kind,” Jackson said. “She is such a leader with tremendous athleticism and will be very hard to replace.”
Harrison led all scorers with 27 points for Hephzibah, while Williams scored 12 points and Queen Glenn added 10 points.