|Southaven's Jazmine Joiner (center) grabs a rebound with competition from Horn Lake's Tranika Echols and teammate A'Queen Hayes.|
What was the key for the Horn Lake girls basketball team to win its Mississippi High School Activities Association Region 1-6A rematch against visiting Southaven Tuesday?
First of all, unlike last week's 11-point road loss, the shots were falling for the Lady Eagles, who also mixed in a stingy defense to hold the Lady Chargers to their lowest point output of the season in a 44-26 victory.
"The main thing for me tonight was confidence," said Horn Lake coach Janna Lyons, "because I truly believe in this team. So, for my girls to not only hear me say it, but actually see that we could contend and beat great teams. I think that says a lot ... that's what this game was all about."
On their way to improving to 18-2 overall and 4-1 in league play, the Lady Eagles built a 21-10 lead on the strength of Bridget Grant's 3-pointer and Brayanta Conley's layup early in the second period.
Southaven (19-3, 4-1) answered with Aliyah Miller's jumper and two free throws by Lulu Layne, yet the Lady Chargers would be held off the scoreboard for the remaining four minutes and 40 seconds of the opening half. It wasn't until Olivia Cunningham converted on a free throw at the 3:38 mark of the third period that the top-ranked team in The Commercial Appeal's Dandy Dozen would end its scoring drought.
"We couldn't hit a basket," Southaven coach David Baldwin said. "Horn Lake was much more prepared. Apparently, I didn't have mine ready to play. We didn't seem to all be on the same page."
The final period was more of the same for the Lady Chargers, who like in the second period, were limited to four points. Horn Lake knocked down seven-of-eight shots from the free throw line, including four from Keneisha Winfrey to maintain its comfortable cushion.
"My girls were just a little more focused on the things that mattered," Lyons said. "At the end, winning is great, but the little things in between was even more important."
Grant, one of just three seniors on the Lady Eagle roster, scored a game-high 15 points for the Lady Eagles.
"Coach challenged me to be a better leader," said Grant, who contributed a pair of 3-pointers in the win, "so my mind frame tonight was to keep everybody focused.
"We work a lot on our shots, so for them to finally fall in big games, it feels good and pushes our confidence."
Added Lyons: "(Grant) is a phenomenal player. She brings her A-game in big games. She does great things for us."
Southaven was paced by Miller, a Providence signee, with eight points. A'Queen Hayes added seven.