Lady Bears eliminated by AkronPublished 5:44pm Saturday, February 26, 2011
Edward Bell’s hopes of playing in the Final Four were dashed in the closing minutes of Saturday’s Central Regional Tournament final at Alabama State, as Akron outscored the Lady Bears 14-3 in the last 2:22 to win 73-61.
Kierra Billingsley’s steal and lay-up cut Edward Bell’s deficit to one at 59-58, but Valencia McCain and Kadijah Small answered with baskets to push the Lady Rams’ lead back to five.
Desharte Edwards made it a four-point game with 1:05 left, but Akron hit three straight free throws and three straight field goals to close the contest on an 8-0 run.
“For the past several games, we have gotten behind and had to come back in the fourth quarter,” EBHS coach Nancy Shealey said. “We knew we were still in the game, but we had a big defensive lapse late. They moved the ball around quite a bit, and we didn’t move our feet. If you stand and look and don’t put your hands up, they’re going to shoot. And (Saturday) was their day. They made shots.”
Tournament MVP Small (23 points, 12 rebounds) and McCain combined for 40 points to offset Billingsley’s 28 for the Lady Bears, which finished the season at 21-5.
The first quarter was a showdown between Billingsley and Small. Small accounted for 12 of Akron’s first 14 points, while Billingsley made three 3-pointers and scored all 11 of Edward Bell’s in the period. Tori Robinson sank a triple with 10 seconds left to make it 17-11 Akron after one.
It was 20-13 after another Robinson three, but Laquashous Stowes and Edwards sank treys for the Lady Bears and Natalie Copeland added a bucket with 4:24 left to make it a 22-21 contests.
Akron scored the next 10 points, however, and led 32-23 at halftime.
A 6-0 spurt by the Lady Rams extended their lead to 12 late in the third, but Billingsley helped Edward Bell gain the momentum with a four-point play with 1:29 to go, and Akron carried a 50-43 edge into the fourth.
The Lady Rams led by as many as nine early in the last stanza, but Janeisha Moss scored and Billingsley contributed four points in a row to make things interesting late before Akron’s final run.
Edwards had 12 for the Lady Bears, and Copeland, who was named as an All-Tournament player, put up eight points and five rebounds. Moss closed with eight and seven assists.
Point guard Ca’neshia Smith battled an ankle injury she sustained in the first quarter, but finished with six assists.
“(Saturday’s game) wasn’t a bad, bad showing,” Shealey said. “It was reachable and we were really, really close. A whole lot of turnovers in the third and fourth hurt us, though.
“But it means a lot to make it this far. After five years of coming (to Alabama State) and three of four years of going to Troy without winning, this was a big step.”