Sulphur Bluff puts Jagger in the heart of Midway
Tyler Clifton | News-Telegram Sports Writer

Feb. 20, 2004 -- PILOT POINT -- What a difference a week makes.

Sulphur Bluff didn't allow two tough losses at the end of the regular season to dampen its morale or affect its performance in the playoffs. The Lady Bears simply wanted to stay focused and play the brand of basketball that had given them 23 regular-season wins and four consecutive district championships.

Senior Zandra Messick was unstoppable, scoring 23 points to go along with seven rebounds, five assists and five steals, while junior Jill Jaggers had 19 points to lead SBHS to a 55-46 win over Henrietta Midway Friday night.

Ashley Pettit had 11 rebounds, Tara Williams six assists and Jennifer McDonald six boards for the Lady Bears (25-4), who advanced to their first regional game in nine years and will play an undetermined opponent Tuesday night in the regional semifinals.

"We picked up our defense in the second half and didn't allow their posts to hurt us underneath," SBHS head coach Tim Lane said. "We were a little sluggish early on, but adjusted. The girls got after the basketball, and that was key."

Midway's Mary Ritchie's putback to start the third quarter tied the game 24-24, but two baskets each by McDonald and Jaggers put the Lady Bears up four, and they would answer every Lady Falcon challenge, never trailing the rest of the way. Messick used her speed to catch HMHS off guard and stole the ensuing inbounds pass and scored to give SBHS a 35-29 advantage with 3:59 left in the quarter.

Jaggers' layup and a McDonald jumper stretched the lead to eight, before Bailey Browning's third 3-pointer of the night along with a Britt Wilson basket cut the lead to 39-36 heading into the final eight minutes.

SBHS won the game with its fast break offense, as Jaggers got loose from the Lady Falcons on numerous occasions, particularly in the third quarter. One of the key plays in the game occurred when Jaggers outran Peyton Cantwell downcourt and drew a charge. A score would have gotten HMHS within a point, and although Jaggers gave away some size to her opponent, she said there was no choice but to stand her ground.

"I was hoping not to get a foul called on myself actually," Jaggers said. "We had a lot of steals and caused some turnovers in the second half after switching defenses from time to time. We got them out of sync and got into their heads a little bit."

It was then Messick's time to shine, as her 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter and Jaggers' layup got the lead back to eight. Messick scored off her own miss, had two free throws and added her second three of the night to give the Lady Bears their biggest lead of the game at 51-40 with 3:06 left to play.

An Amber Kisner three-point play wasn't enough to threaten SBHS, as Jaggers scored her ninth field goal of the night to seal the win. It was only fitting that she and Messick had free throws at the end to add icing on the cake.

Messick finished with 11 of her 23 points in the quarter along with four rebounds, three of them on the offensive boards. She was also a big contributor on the defensive end, securing three of her five steals late.

"We had some good shots in the fourth quarter," Messick said. "We set some solid screens and made some good passes, and our ability to rebound gave us some wide open looks."

SBHS outrebounded the Lady Falcons 30-26, including 13-4 on the offensive boards. The Lady Bears shot 56 percent (24-of-43) for the game to 36 percent for HMHS (18-of-50).

"This is something none of us have done before," said Messick, referring to the team's deep playoff run. "That motivated us, and we wanted to come out and play harder after suffering a letdown last week."

Messick had six first-quarter points, while Jaggers, McDonald and Pettit each had one basket, but six Cantwell points and a Browning 3-pointer gave HMHS a 13-12 lead.

Wilson's putback increased the margin to 16-12, before Pettit answered with a jumper inside. Cantwell's layup with 4:12 left in the half got the lead back to four, but Pettit scored off an offensive rebound, and SBHS never trailed by more than two the rest of the game. Jaggers scored six points in the final 1:49 of the half to give the Lady Bears a 24-22 lead at the break.

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