They just kept playing. The Lady Jackets overcame a huge hole they had dug for themselves and secured an exhausting victory over the Edgewood Lady Bulldogs last Friday, 57-50. The win put the Lady Jackets at 2–0 in district play, and more importantly provided a mettle-shaping challenge which will surely serve them well as the season progresses.
Edgewood led 23-4 with four minutes left in the first half. Mineola had committed 10 turnovers in the first 12 minutes of basketball and had a technical foul thrown in as well. They looked shocked and seemed to be in desperate straits. The press wasn’t contributing, the host Bulldog offense was in rhythm, and Mineola just couldn’t seem to remember the basics.
At that very juncture, it would have been easy to mail the rest of the game in. They didn’t … they just kept playing. Ever so slowly the confidence began to tilt toward the Mineola side. A break here, a bounce there, and an unshakeable commitment by the Lady Jackets to keep playing hard. It worked, but it certainly wasn’t easy.
The catalyst for this comeback was, predictably, Sabria Dean. After hitting a jumper to make the score 23–6 with 4:16 remaining in the half, she played one of the best four minutes of basketball one could ever want to see. The junior guard took the ball to the rim. Driving off the key, she hit mid-range jumpers, layups, a scoop shot, a handful of free throws, and an elegant assist to teammate Jessiah Riley for a score. Several of those drives were off excellent screens set by junior Tiara Stephens. In the final seconds of the half she nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key to draw the Lady Jackets within 9, at 31-22. It was a game again.
Coming out for the second half were the Lady Jackets we recognized. After promptly forcing two Edgewood turnovers, junior Cyndi Butler hit a 3-pointer and Dean a mid-range jumper to make the score 31–29.
What followed was an odd turn of play. Driving up the lane, Dean was whacked in the head by Bulldog senior Katy Pool. Dean was down for several minutes. Mineola Head Coach Tony Riley appeared to ask the referees for an official timeout and each squad regrouped before play continued. Dean nailed the two free throws, and the score was tied at 31 apiece.
The Bulldogs buckled down and on the strength of their offensive rebounding and outside shooting, rebuilt a 9-point advantage. As the third quarter drew to a close, sophomore Tahjae Black had a follow-up from the lane which made the score 44–37 at the end of three quarters. The Lady Jackets forced five Bulldog turnovers in the third quarter as it appeared Edgewood was beginning to tire.
Mineola played a clean fourth quarter. They had no turnovers, and forced five from Edgewood. The energy favored the Lady Jackets. Butler had opened the quarter with a three, and Black contributed with an offensive rebound put-back from the lane. With five minutes to play, Dean hit a 3-pointer, giving Mineola the lead for the first time on the evening, 47-45. Riley played a huge role in the fourth, driving to the basket repeatedly and drawing fouls in the process. Mineola scored well from the line and held on to grind out the win 57–50.
The Lady Jackets won with persistence and dogged determination.