The Lady Knights took on a perennial AA state title contender in the Taylor County Lady Vikings to open their 2012-13 season on Friday night. The Lady Vikings finished last season with a 26-2 record, and are sure to be ranked in the top 10 of the state when the first polls of the season are released.
Knowing they were in for a tough game, the Lady Knights proved to up to the challenge early on in the contest, even without two of their best players, Jasmine Davis and Tykeela Gray. Upson-Lee, which trailed for the entire game, made a run late in the third quarter, cutting the Lady Vikings lead to 44-34 with two points from Brittney Acey. However, it was in the fourth quarter where the Lady Vikings put the game away. Taylor County outscored Upson-Lee 18-2 in the fourth, sealing a 71-40 victory. The Lady Knights suffered from a lack of depth on the bench. Missing two starters, and having another go down with an injury during the game, the Lady Knights had almost no bench at all. In fact, after one player fouled out, the Lady Knights were forced to play the last 1:34 of the game with just four players.
“It was a tough situation to be in,” said first year head coach Bart Phillips. “I felt like we played hard all night, and I felt like we matched them with our intensity defensively, but we just did not have enough healthy players in the fourth quarter. We were not able to substitute later in the game, and we got tired. We are going to bring a couple of players up from the junior varsity squad to help our bench until we get some players healthy. A short bench and foul trouble makes for a tough night, especially when playing a team like Taylor County, but I think we are coming along. We need to do a better job of taking care of the basketball, making free throws and lay-ups, and continue to get better defensively.”
The Lady Knights had some turnover issues early in the game, trailing 6-0 to start the contest. The Lady Knights finished with 28 turnovers on the evening. However, Brittney Acey and Ke’Ondra Ausbrooks were able to get some baskets down in the post, cutting the Lady Vikings lead to 17-7 at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Lady Knights were able to force a few turnovers of their own with a half-court trapping defense. The Lady Knights cut the Lady Vikings lead to 21-14, but ultimately trailed 35-20 at halftime.
In the third quarter, the Knights began to make a run. The Lady Knights were able to get to the basket and make a few shots, while also getting to the free throw line. However, the Lady Knights’ free throw shooting continued to be a problem, as they only made 12 of 37 free throws, a 32 percent clip.
With 2:32 left in the third quarter, the Lady Knights were in the midst of an 8-0 run, after baskets from Acey and Ausbrooks, cutting the Lady Vikings lead to 44-34, but that’s as close as Upson-Lee could get.
In the fourth quarter, Taylor County began to run their fast break, getting looks for easy lay-ups as the Lady Knights defense began to tire. Upson-Lee, shorthanded already, had a player foul out of the game with 1:34 left to go, and had to finish the final minute with just four players. The Lady Knights played a 2-2 zone, while the Lady Vikings held the ball to run out the clock.
Acey led the Lady Knights with 18 points, while Ausbrooks added eight points. Ja’Leesa Gibson finished with five points, Kia Willis added four points, Ekorea Gray also netted four points, while Mikeyla Butler chipped in with one point in the loss.
The Lady Knights will be in action at home once again tonight, as they take on the Lady Tigers from Stockbridge in their first Region 4 game of the season. Stockbridge lost their first game of the season to Southwest Atlanta Christian (SWAC) by a 61-27 score. Tip-off for tonight’s contest is slated for 6 p.m.