Drew coach Candence Jackson, left, talks with guard Jada Hargrove in the fourth quarter of the Titans’ 74-64 win over Evans in the first round of the Class AAAAA playoffs. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
RIVERDALE — Lakiah Sims figured she had to do something in the second half of Drew’s first round Class AAAAA playoff game against visiting Evans or her career in a Titans uniform was over.
Drew trailed Evans at the intermission as they looked nervous and out of rhythm on offense and defense.
Much of it would continue early in the second half before Sims took over the game late in the third quarter. Behind a game-high 29-point performance from Sims, the Titans got a 74-64 win over Evans on Friday.
“We were a little frustrated in the first half,” Sims said. “I knew I had to step up, because I didn’t want the second half to be my last 16 minutes of basketball at Drew. I had to shake off the bad things in the first half. I think the first half was a whole bunch of nerves.”
The win improved Drew to 23-3 overall as it advanced to the second round of the playoffs on Monday to host the winner of the Lee County-Richmond Hill game.
Friday’s win was the Titan’s first playoff win in the program’s history in two previous playoff games.
“It felt good getting this win,” said Sims, the Region 4-AAAAA Player of the Year. “We finally got over that hump.”
Sims had only nine points in the first half, but exploded for 15 in the third quarter to help the Titans take control of the game.
Evans led 29-25 at the intermission, and then built a 35-25 lead in the third quarter. However, sophomore Jada Hargrove drilled a couple of 3-pointers and Sims controlled the paint as the Titans chipped away at the lead.
Finally, a three-point play by Sims gave the Titans a 46-43 lead with 1:11 remaining in the third quarter. Drew would build on the lead and fight off a couple of rallies by the Knights to get the win.
“We struggled in the first half,” Drew coach Candence Jackson said. “We struggled big time in the first half. We went in at halftime and regrouped. I told them that we were not playing Lady Titans basketball out there. We made some changes, and we grew up fast.”
One big change came when Jackson decided to put Toxie Wilson on Evans’ leading scorer Jasmine Stone. In the first half, Stone had 15 points to lead the Knights. However, in the second half, she only had 11 points, seven in the third. All four of her fourth-quarter points came on free throws.
Stone would finish with a team-high 26 points.
“We had to slow her down in the second quarter,” Jackson said. “We decided to put Toxie on her, and she did a great job.”
The Titans got 17 points from Jada Hargrove, and Alexis Henderson finished with 14 points.
“I think in the first half we sort of took them for granted because of their size,” Sims said. “It was also a bunch of nerves on our part. In the end, we wasn’t ready for our season to end.”