Thursday, March 6, 2014

Houston girls fall in Class AAA state quarterfinals

From Commercial Appeal

Sophomore guard Jaida Roper summed it up best in the post-game press conference.

"What can you do?" she shrugged.

That's the kind of day it was for Houston Thursday at the Murphy Center.

The most successful girls basketball season in school history came to an end in the quarterfinals of the AAA state tournament, as Houston fell to Murfreesboro Blackman, 52-38. The Blaze, who improved to 32-1, are ranked first in the nation in both the USA Today and MaxPreps polls.

Cold shooting is what cost the Mustangs; they finished the game with just nine baskets and ended up at just 22 percent from the floor.

"We played good defense, rebounded, everything. We just didn't hit our shots," said senior Aysha Harris.
Indeed, for a good part of the game Houston's game plan was very effective. Blackman's first basket of the game didn't come until the 1:46 mark of the first quarter. And the Mustangs' tempo -- not an all-out stall by any means but very patient -- created several good scoring opportunities.

"We controlled the tempo," said senior guard Marisa Knox. "We wanted to play at a slow tempo and get free throws but the shots just weren't falling."

And with Houston struggling to score, it was only a matter of time before Blackman asserted itself. The Blaze led 20-11 at halftime and built a double-digit lead in the third quarter before using an 8-1 run in the fourth to take control for good.

Crystal Dangerfield, a AAA Miss Basketball finalist, led Blackman with 18 points. Alex Johnson added 13 and 10 rebounds.

"Not only do they have five players who will play in college, they have five players with very high skill levels," said Houston coach Chad Becker. "That's why they're number one. But you're not going to shoot 22 percent and win in the state finals."

Roper led the Mustangs with nine points. Knox chipped in with seven.

After the game, Becker praised the leadership of Roper, Harris and Knox, who formed the backbone of a team that won both the District 15 and Region 8 tournaments, while finishing 26-8.

"There were points in the season where our season could have disintegrated," said Becker. "But these three here kept that from happening. We won 12 in a row just to make it here ... we did well for ourselves."

Added Roper, "I'm proud of us. It was a great season."

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