After running out of gas in their first game of the season against Taylor County earlier this week, the Lady Knights kept the pedal to the metal in a 42-36 victory over Stockbridge on Friday night.
Upson-Lee started the contest with a frantic pace, and overwhelmed the Lady Tigers with tough defense and sharp shooting from the floor. The Lady Knights led by 20-4 score at the end of the first period, and were able to fend off a late rally from Stockbridge in the fourth quarter, earning their first region victory in nearly two years and their first win under new head coach Bart Phillips.
“I’m really proud of these girls,” said Phillips. “They have been busting their tails in practice everyday, and they saw the the reward for their hard work tonight. I felt like we were aggressive out there defensively, applying pressure to the ball and getting our hands in the passing lanes. Ekorea stepped up offensively, and that’s the kind of performance and leadership we need from her. I also thought our bench played well, Kiashona Carter and Ja’Leesa Gibson gave us some good minutes. We still need to work on our free throw shooting and staying out of foul trouble.”
The Lady Knights’ Brittney Acey and Kia Willis did most of their damage in the game in the first quarter, as the two combined to score 10 of the Lady Knights’ 20 points in the opening quarter. Senior point guard Demeshia Russell did a nice job of distributing the ball, while forcing turnovers on the defensive side. The Lady Knights seemingly sealed the Lady Tigers’ fate, outscoring them 20-4 in the first quarter.
The Lady Knights went cold from the floor over the next 16 minutes, but the Lady Tigers could only trim the lead by four points in the second period. Upson-Lee led Stockbridge 26-14 at halftime.
In the third quarter, the Lady Tigers continued to rally, knocking down shots from three-point land. The Lady Tigers had cut the Lady Knights lead to 32-27 at the end of the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the Lady Tigers began to force the Lady Knights to turn the ball over, and they took advantage by continuing to make and take three-point shots. With just 2:21 remaining in the game, the Lady Tigers and Lady Knights were all tied up 33-33. However, from that point on, the Lady Knights went on a 8-3 run to close out the game.
“The way we fought back after they came back to tie the game is something these ladies can be proud of,” said Phillips. “It would have been easy to just give up and accept that they played another good game, but came out on the losing side of things, but they did not do that. They fought back, and they can look back on this game later in the season when they are in a tough situation and know they have the ability to win close ball games.”
Ekorea Gray paced the Lady Knights with 13 points, while Kia Willis added nine points. Brittney Acey finished with six points in the contest, Ja’Leesa Gibson added five points, Kiashona Cater netted four points, Demeshia Russell scored three points, and Keondra Ausbrooks chipped in with two points in the victory.
The Lady Knights will take on a tough Woodland team up in Stockbridge tonight. Woodland finished with a 21-10 record last season, advancing to the State Playoffs. The Lady Knights and Lady Wolfpack will tip off the action tonight at 6 p.m.