Lady Jets advance past Graham to final four
Jordan-Matthews has been here before, deep into the girls basketball state tournament at the Crown Arena. Even though Mid-State Conference rival Graham threw everything they knew at the Lady Jets Friday night, the Lady Jets were cool and calm most of the way for a 60-47 victory and a spot in the NCHSAA 2A state semifinals Saturday evening.
The Lady Jets (27-4), the defending state champs, were led by the players who've been here before. Senior Mylia Garner, last season's 2A Player of the Year, scored 19 points and played point forward all night as the Lady Red Devils (19-11) tried pressing and trapping the Lady Jets all night.
Senior center Erin Bristow totaled a huge double-double with 20 points and 19 rebounds, with 10 of her boards coming on the offensive end.
Graham, which got one of three contests against Jordan-Matthews during Mid-State Conference play this season, forced 23 Jet turnovers on the night. A lead in the first few minutes, then a couple brief charges trying to fight back into the game in the second half was the best the Red Devils could muster.
"This is the fourth time we've played them," said Jordan-Matthews head coach Jeff Stutts, "so it's really tough playing a team four times because we know each other so well."
After Graham led 7-3, the Lady Jets settled into their tempo. Taylor Paige's 12-foot jumper off a rebound gave the Jets a 10-9 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Lady Jets rolled off the first six points of the next quarter, with Bristow scoring two straight hoops inside off Bethany Pyrtle's dishes.
Garner and Bristow scored nine points each in the opening half and the Lady Jets led 26-16 at halftime.
The Lady Jets stuck to mostly a half-court pace but against the Graham pressing, although they attacked and made the Red Devils pay for their traps on more than a few possessions.
Garner, who's committed to attend and play at Charlotte next school year, was the primary target to break the press with Bristow at the hoop finishing.
The Lady Jet backcourt stepped up to the Red Devil challenge as well. Madison Poe scored 10 of her 12 points in the second half. After Graham closed within a 28-23 Jet lead with 5:22 showing in the third period, Poe helped turn the momentum back in the Jet direction. She scored six points in the quarter and Garner resumed making plays for herself and her teammates.
"Madison did a really good job trying to handle (Graham's) pressure," Stutts said.
"Graham's a very quick team, very well-coached. They do a really good job with their personnel and they create match-up problems for us," he said.
The Lady Jets more than returned the match-up issues. After Graham nearly came up with a steal from a trap at midcourt, Garner drove the lane and scored through contact making it a 46-33 Lady Jet lead with a little less than five minutes left.
Even when Garner went to the bench for a couple short spells with four fouls, Graham closed within eight, 50-42, but the Lady Jets kept their composure.
Garner made two free throws for a 10-point Jet lead again. With the Lady Jet defense creating their own turnovers, Poe knocked down 3-of-4 free throws and on the one miss, Bristow grabbed the rebound and scored, making it 58-44 with 1:08 left.
Kay Kay Wilson led Graham with 17 points. Deja Cousins, Jasmine Atkins and Brie Snipes scored seven points each. Graham totaled 17 steals.
Saturday evening's regional final/state semifinal, set for 6 p.m. in Crown Arena, will be a rematch of last year's contest at the same point of the tournament. Kinston (24-4) beat Bunn 49-45 earlier Friday evening. Jordan-Matthews beat Kinston 61-28 in last year's semifinal.