Lady Jackets rally for opening win
For the rest of the basketball season, no matter what else Lee County's girls basketball team faces, the Lady Yellow Jackets should know never to give up from how they pulled out their season-opener.
Lee County struggled to put the ball for 31 minutes of its contest at rival Western Harnett Tuesday night.
Trailing 42-35, the Lady Jackets scored 10 points in the last 0:41 of regulation, seven points by Shantel Bennett and three points by MaKaylia McIver, to force overtime. Lee County won the four extra minutes 11-4 to start the season with a 56-49 victory.
Western Harnett guard Meredith Randolph hit a long jumper for a 40-33 Lady Eagle lead with a little more than a minute remaining, then after two free throws by Bennett, Randolph drove the lane and made a lay-up for a seven-point lead again.
On the following Lee County possession, Bennett drew a foul and made both shots again. The Lady Jacket full-court press, which worked in short spurts during the game, came up with repeated steals.
After the foul shots, Bennett stole the inbounds pass and made a lay-up while being fouled. She made the three-point play bringing the Jackets within 42-40.
Noelle Beattie intercepted a football pass near midcourt and on a break back at the Eagle hoop, McIver was fouled. She made one free throw, which allowed the Jacket press to attack again. McIver got a steal a couple seconds later and was fouled. She made both free throws this time, giving Lee County a 43-42 lead with 0:26 left. Another steal from the Jackets' trapping led to Bennett going in for a lay-up.
There was still time for a Lady Eagle comeback. On a Lady Jacket foul from a trap in the backcourt, now with 0:15 left, Ebonee Gilchrist made the first free throw and missed the second. The loose rebound went out of bounds to the Lady Eagles.
Off the inbounds pass, Jonacia Harper drove in from the right wing and made a running 10-foot shot to tie the score.
A Lee County possession ended in a turnover, then Western Harnett, trying to go the length of the court in 5.4 seconds, couldn't get a shot in time bringing up overtime.
The Lady Jackets scored the first 11 points of overtime. Two free throws by Bennett, then Jasmine Person hitting the only Lee County three-pointer of the game, made it 50-45 Lady Jackets with 2:32 to play.
Reserve guard Tara Speelman, who got most of her playing time after starting guard Quitta Wilson - the only senior on Lee County's roster - fouled out in the fourth quarter, scored four of her eight points in overtime.
Lee County led 16-7 early in the second quarter and the Lady Eagles chipped the Jacket lead to 18-13 at halftime.
The Lady Eagles beat the Jacket pressing with long passes for two hoops, a jumper by center Geena Bryant, then a running shot on a break by Harper, to take their first lead of the game, 21-19, with just under five minutes left in the third period. The Lady Eagles kept rolling to a 27-19 lead.
Lee County fought back to a 27-27 score 1:11 into the fourth quarter. After a few empty trips by both sides, Bryant drained a corner three-pointer to put the Lady Eagles ahead. The Lady Eagles kept edging ahead and seemed safe to take their home opener, after going 1-21 last season, until Lee County's frantic rally.
Lee County, getting set for its first season in the 3A Cape Fear Valley Conference, went 5-19 overall and 0-16 in the 4A Tri-Nine last season.
Bennett led the Lady Jackets with 18 points, 14 coming in the second half or overtime, along with five assists and five rebounds. McIver and Speelman scored eight points each. Person and Wilson had six points each. Tashari Wells-Tucker led the Lady Jackets with seven rebounds. Person had six steals.
Harper led the Lady Eagles with 12 points. Bryant had 11 points, nine rebounds and five blocks. Randolph added eight points.