Bay deals Lady Lions heartbreaking 72-71 defeat in NEA semifinals
Jordan Ferguson's clutch free throw with just four seconds left in the game dealt Manila a heartbreaking 72-71 loss to Bay in the semifinals of the NEA Tournament Monday afternoon, Dec. 31, at the Convocation Center in Jonesboro.
It was the third straight year the Lady Lions have lost in the semifinals. "We just can't seem to get past this point," said Manila coach Jeff Priest. "We really worked hard for this and thought we would make it to the finals this year. The girls are very disappointed, but I am very proud of them. They played their hearts out."
Manila trailed 66-64 before Carla Kemp, who led all scorers with 34 points, drained a three pointer to give the Lady Lions the lead with 3:28 left in the game. Kimberly Wise, who pumped in 32 points, followed with another bucket, giving Manila a 69-66 advantage with just under 3:00 minutes remaining, but Bay freshman Hannah Willard drained a three pointer from the left wing to tie the score at the 2:41 mark.
"That was a huge shot for us," said Lady Yellowjacket coach Chad LaRose. "For her to step up and make that shot in that situation was big for her and the team."
Chelsey Jones gave Bay a 71-69 edge before Wise tied the score with a short baseline jumper at the 13 second mark. The Yellowjackets inbounded the ball and Ferguson drove the right lane, throwing up a one-handed hook shot while falling to the floor. The officials ruled Ferguson was fouled on the play, sending the senior to the line where she made the game winning free throw.
"That was a tough call," said Priest. "But it was probably the right call since our defender left her feet. We tell our players to stay on the floor in that situation, so the referee can't make the call. Bay has a great team. That's why they were seeded number two. It's just so tough. The first quarter was what really killed us I thought. But we battled back and the kids never gave up. We will just have to learn from this."
Manila had one last chance to win the game, but the buzzer sounded before the Lady Lions could get off the shot, sending Bay into the finals to face defending champion and top seeded Cave City.
Bay jumped to a 9-2 lead to start the game, and led 18-13 after the first quarter. Manila rallied in the second period and tied the score at 34 heading into halftime. The Lady Yellowjackets outscored Manila 26-17 in the third quarter to take a 60-51 lead into the final frame before the Lions rallied to set up the final frantic minutes.
Kemp and Wise combined for 66 of Manila's 71 points. Kemp finished the game with six three pointers, as the Lady Lions hit seven treys on the afternoon. Manila shot an incredible 95 percent from the foul line, nailing 18-19 free throws. Courtney Craine and Savannah Jones scored two points apiece while Kristen Painter added one point to round out the Lion scoring.
Chelsey Jones and Trisha Dedman scored 19 points apiece to lead Bay. Tressa Jenkins pitched in 14 points, including four three pointers, while Ferguson added 10 points.