For only the second time in seven years, the Upson-Lee Lady Knights advanced with a victory in a region tournament. The last victory Upson-Lee earned in a region tournament was two years ago when they defeated Jones County 55-50 in a first round game.
On Monday night, UL erased a 15-point deficit to defeat Eagles Landing by a 53-49 score. The Lady Knights trailed 17-7 at the end of the first quarter, but took a late 49-47 lead after Jasmine Davis drilled a deep three pointer with 1:42 left in the game. The Lady Knights held on for the 53-49 victory over the Lady Golden Eagles.
“We played about as bad as we could play to start the game,” said Lady Knights head coach Bart Phillips. “I thought we really played well in the fourth quarter. That was probably the best quarter we have played all year. The ladies fought hard and battled back. Getting a victory in the region tournament was a big step in the right direction for our program.”
The Lady Knights trailed 9-0 after just three minutes of play. Upson-Lee had numerous turnovers due to the Eagles Landing full court press. Upson-Lee senior Tykeela Gray scored UL’s first four points of the game, but with 3:21 left in the first quarter, the Lady Knights trailed 14-4, eventually trailing 17-7 at the end of the first quarter.
The Lady Knights deficit grew to 19-4 in the second quarter, but the play of Ekorea Gray helped get Upson-Lee back in the ball game. Gray finished the game with nine points and a career high 13 rebounds, and the Lady Knights held Eagles Landing to just six points in the second quarter.
Trailing 23-16 at halftime, the Lady Knights and the Eagles Landing team both struggled in to scored in the third quarter., Upson-Lee only scored 10 points in the third quarter, with six of those 10 points coming from junior Keondra Ausbrooks.
The fourth quarter proved to be the turning point for the Lady Knights. Upson-Lee, who had only scored 26 points in the first three quarters, scored a whopping 27 points in the fourth quarter. Upson-Lee’s Jasmine Davis nailed 2 three-pointers in the fourth quarter, including the go ahead bucket with just 1:42 left in the game.
Upson-Lee held off the Lady Golden Eagles for the remainder of the game, thanks in part to some clutch free throw shooting from Kiashona Carter. The sophomore guard scored all eight of her points in the fourth quarter, including making six free throws.
Jasmine Davis paced the Lady Knights with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Ekorea Gray added nine points and 13 rebounds. Keondra Ausbrook also scored nine points and grabbed seven rebounds. Kiashona Carter netted eight points, TyKeela Gray added six points, Demshia Russell finished with five points, while Kia Willis and Quasha Hutcherson each chipped in with two points.
With the victory over Eagles Landing, Upson-Lee earned the right to take on the No. 4 state ranked Lady Cardinals from Jonesboro High School. The winner of the game would advance to the state playoffs. Unfortunately for the Lady Knight, the game was never in question. UL struggled with the Jonesboro ball pressure and fell behind early. When the buzzer sounded, Jonesboro ended the game with a 74-21 victory over Upson-Lee.
“We fell behind early,” said Phillips. “I think we were out of gas from the game the night before. We really could not do much of anything, and they are a great team. We just had a hard time competing. I do think the program took some strides in the right direction, and I am excited about the future of the program.”