With the win the Lady Aggies will take on Central-Tuscaloosa in Tuesday’s Class 5A Central Tournament at Alabama State University at 9 a.m.
“It was a huge win and that is all that you want to do,” Sylacauga head coach Derrick Crawford said. “You will take an ugly win over a pretty loss any day. All you want to do is survive right now. We had that one bad game. One thing about our team normally when we have a bad game, and this shows out this entire season, we normally come back playing good basketball. When we have a bad game we normally run off four or five game in a row. We got our bad game out of the way. That is something that I was worried about. I was hoping that we could survive and survived it tonight.”
Foul trouble hurt the Lady Aggies in the first quarter. After getting off to a slow start, Sylacauga used their defense to build an 11-6 lead. Shakayla Thomas scored five points in the first quarter, which included a layup to give Sylacauga a 13-6 lead with 2:08 left in the quarter. The reigning Class 5A Player of the Year was forced to sit the rest of the half after picking up her second foul while contesting a shot with 2:01 left in the quarter.
Kayla Dark scored four straight points to end the quarter to give Sylacauga a 17-8 lead going into the second quarter.
Dede Mitchell increased Sylacauga’s lead to 19-10 early in the second quarter.
Ben Russell went on a 7-2 run to cut the Sylacauga lead to 19-15.
Tierra Dark’s layup with 3:48 left before halftime increased Sylacauga’s lead to 21-15. Mitchell increased the Lady Aggies lead to 23-15 on layup off a Tierra Dark assist.
Maliyah Patton hit a jumper with 1:57 left in the half to give Sylacauga a 25-19 lead going into halftime.
“Dede stepped up, Kayla Dark came in and scored some points” Crawford said. “T (Tierra Dark) played good. We’ve had situations where kids had to step up and play extremely well for us. They did tonight.”
Thomas returned in the third quarter and her presence was immediately felt. The junior grabbed a defensive rebound and took it coast-to-coast for a layup to give Sylacauga a 31-25 lead. Ben Russell went on a 4-0 run to bring the lead within two points, 31-29 with 2:23 left in the quarter. Tierra Dark and the Lady Aggies closed the quarter on a 6-2 run. Tierra Dark scored four of the six points, including a layup up at the buzzer to give Sylacauga a 37-31 lead going into the fourth quar
The Lady Aggies picking up their defense incorporation with Thomas taking over offensively taking all hope of an upset away from Ben Russell.
The Lady Wildcats cut the Sylacauga lead to four points, 38-34 with 7:14 left. Thomas scored 12 of her game high 21 points in the quarter. She scored the first six points of the quarter to make it 42-34.
Patten increased the lead to double digits, 44-34 on a layup off a turnover.
On their next trip down the court, Sylacauga’s Kayla Pope took a charge. Thomas scored a layup few seconds later to put the game away.
Thomas capped off her stellar second half with back-to-back baskets to give Sylacauga a 53-39 victory. Thomas finished with 21 points and 20 rebounds.
“We were a little timid early on,” Crawford said. “With the way the game was being called we didn’t want to go out and get any quick fouls. That’s why we didn’t want to press or play man defense, because I wanted to buy some minutes. Late in the third quarter we went back to Lady Aggies basketball. We matched up, played man defense and going into the press. Once we did that we really start dictating what was going on. We are heading to Alabama State and we are looking forward to that. Hopefully, we will get a huge crowd like we did tonight. Hope Sylacauga comes out and supports us. We had a great crowd tonight that came out and supported us tonight.”