The Upson-Lee Lady Knights basketball team took part in the Little Caesar’s Baldwin High School Christmas Invitational last weekend. Also joining Upson-Lee were Burke County, Hancock-Central, and host, Baldwin High School.
The Lady Knights took care of business against Hancock-Central in the first round with a 50-42 victory, lost to the eventual tournament champions Burke County by a 61-46 score, and then lost a heart breaker to Baldwin in a 62-60 ball game.
“I really thought our team got better during this tournament,” said Lady Knights head coach Bart Phillips. “We were able to get three games played in three games. Some players really stepped up for us and that will give them some confidence for our region games which are coming up. I thought we played our best game of the season so far against Baldwin. Even though we lost, I really thought we did a lot of good things. They are a pretty good team, and if we can compete night in and night out like we did in that game, we should be able to compete in region play.”
In the first game the Lady Knights opened up a big lead over Hancock-Central (Sparta), with a 12-4 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Lady Knights were able to get the ball inside to Keondra Ausbrooks, and the 5’11 senior seemingly scored with ease. Defensively it was Kiashona Carter and Laquasha Hutcherson who applied tremendous ball pressure to the Lady Bulldogs from Hancock County. At the half, Upson-Lee held a 25-19 lead as the two teams entered the locker room.
The two teams played evenly in the third quarter, but it was in the middle of the fourth quarter that Hancock-Central began to make a run at the Lady Knights. The Lady Bulldogs started to knock down some shots from the perimeter and with 4:19 left in the game, Upson-Lee’s lead had been cut to 40-39.
However, just seconds later the Hancock-Central bench said something to the official which earned them a technical foul. Junior Kiashona Carter stepped up to knock down three of four free throws to give UL a 43-39 lead. From that point on, the Lady Knights got a big three-pointer from Kia Willis and three blocked shots in a row from their 6’2 freshman, Kyjha Kendall. When the buzzer sounded the Lady Knights had earned a 50-42 victory.
Keondra Ausbrooks paced the Lady Knights with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Kiashona Carter added 11 points, while Kia Willis scored nine points. Laquasha Hutcherson finished with eight points, and five steals, while Alexis Holston netted six points. Freshman Kyjha Kendall scored three points and brought down eight rebounds in the victory.
The following day, Upson-Lee took on a 10-1 Burke County team which had narrowly defeated Baldwin the night prior. The Lady Knights hung with Burke County for three quarters, but it was the third quarter in which Burke County opened up an insurmountable lead. After trailing 21-17 at halftime, the Lady Knights fell behind 42-30 after the third quarter. The Lady Bears outscored Upson-Lee 19-16 in the fourth quarter, earning a 61-46 victory.
Freshman Kyjha Kendall had a career day for the Lady Knights, notching a triple-double. Kendall finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 blocked shots in the contest. Kiashona Carter added 14 points, Alexis Holston netted eight points, Keera McMillion scored four points, Kia Willis added three points, and Keondra Ausbrooks chipped in with two points.
On the last day of the tournament the Lady Knights took on Baldwin High, the host school, in a battle for second place. The Lady Knights came out on fire in the first half of the game, shocking the home crowd with a 29-21 lead at halftime.
The Lady Braves from Baldwin came back in the third quarter to take a 42-33 lead with just minutes left in the third period. However, the Lady Knights did not bow down, fighting back to go on a 6-0 run to end the quarter, with a big three-pointer from Kiashona Carter.
The Lady Knights, who dressed out only nine players for the game, took some serious blows with foul trouble and injury. UL senior Keondra Ausbrooks stayed in foul trouble for most of the game, and spent most of the first quarter, third quarter, and parts of the fourth quarter on the bench.
In the fourth quarter the Lady Knights battled back to take the lead, but the two teams kept exchanging leads back and forth in the later minutes of the game. Near the beginning of the fourth quarter, UL’s Laquasha Hutcher suffered an ankle injury, but would try her best to return. To add to the Lady Knights troubles, UL freshman Kyjha Kendall fouled out of the game, as did Alexis Holston. That gave the Lady Knights four players on the bench who were out of the game.
The Lady Knights had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation, but Kia Willis had a shot go off the side of the rim, and the two teams ended the fourth quarter tied at 53-53. In overtime, Hutcherson took the floor courageously, but after just a few minutes of playing on one leg, it was evident that she would not be able to go the distance. Baldwin took a 59-55 lead in overtime, but with 1:15 left in the game, UL’s Kia Willis drilled a three-pointer to cut the lead to 59-58.
The Lady Braves added another point at the free throw line with just 45 seconds left, but it was Carter who knocked down two free throws with just 29 seconds left to tie the game at 60-60. Baldwin would get an offensive rebound and put back to take a 62-60 lead with just 5 seconds left. The Lady Knights inbounded the ball and threw the ball to half court where Carter took three dribbles, letting the ball fly for a three-pointer and the win. Unfortunately, the shot hit of the front of the rim, and the Lady Knights suffered a tough 62-60 loss.
Kiashona Carter led all players with a game high 22 points, while ripping eight steals and dishing out four assists. Kia Willis added a career high 15 points in the game, while Laquasha Hutcherson and Kyjha Kendall each tallied seven points. Keera McMillion scored six points, and Alexis Holston chipped in with three points.
The Lady Knights will host North Clayton in an important region game on Friday night. Tip off is slated for 6 p.m.