Photo by Derrick Mahone
For the second time in five days, Lovejoy coach Leon Dillard has seen his Lady Wildcats defeat Morrow in a Region 4-AAAA game. Tuesday, Lovejoy won 41-40 at Morrow after a five-point win at home on Friday.
Playing each other for the second time in the last three games, Tuesday night’s Lovejoy-Morrow girls basketball clash was nearly a carbon copy of the first. The only difference — the court at Morrow compared to Lovejoy.
But like Friday night, when Lovejoy pulled out a five-point victory, the Lady Wildcats again rallied late and came away with a thrilling 44-40 victory in the Region 4-AAAA battle. The victory improves Lovejoy to 8-7 overall and 6-6 in the region, while Morrow is now 7-9 overall and 5-5 in the region. Both teams are virtually deadlocked for fifth place at the moment in Region 4-AAAA. This is key because the fourth- and fifth-place finishers in the region need to win only one postseason game to qualify for the state tournament.
“This was an important game for us having just defeated them (Morrow) on Friday,” said Lovejoy head coach Leon Dillard. “Playing for that fifth spot in the region is huge, and it was almost like the previous game — tight all the way through.”
Tight was an understatement as neither team led by more than nine points, and seven points was the largest margin in the second half. Morrow appeared to have early control with a 9-1 run in the second quarter, however, a layup by Tierney Haythe and another in transition by Tory Hardy staked the Lady Mustangs to an 18-9 lead at the 4:25 mark.
But Lovejoy responded with an 11-0 run. Chelona Holmes started the rally with a layup, followed by a 3-point basket by Deja Jackson. Jackson tied the score with two free throws, and Crystal Williams gave the Lady Wildcats a 20-18 lead with a layup at the 2:18 mark. But Morrow took a 21-20 lead at halftime as Markiesha Campbell scored on a layup with 51 seconds remaining.
Neither team could gain an advantage throughout the third quarter and early in the final period. Lovejoy took a 34-30 lead a minute into the fourth quarter on back-to-back jumpers by Morgan Jackson. But Morrow answered with a 7-0 run, highlighted by Campbell’s transition lay-up with 4:36 remaining to give the Lady Mustangs a 37-34 lead.
But that would be all the points for Morrow until the final seconds. Lovejoy, meanwhile, countered with six points in succession by senior center Alease Allen. She converted two straight put-backs to give the Lady Wildcats a 40-37 lead at the 2:11 mark. Lovejoy then limited Morrow down the stretch and converted four of its final six free-throw attempts to seal it.
“We made those free throws down the stretch, and in those last four minutes kept them out of the paint,” Dillard said. “Alease was frustrated most of the game because she got some early foul trouble and could not seem to get her rhythm going. But she hit some big shots down the stretch that were key.
Allen and Navilla Paul each scored nine points for Lovejoy. For Morrow, Campbell scored a game-high 13 points.