CRAWFORD – This is not the time of the year when a team wants to let its guard down and relax in a game.
The East Oktibbeha Lady Titans escaped with a 73-70 victory over the Piney Woods Lady Tornadoes Monday night in the first round of the Class A playoffs.
The Lady Titans built a 42-26 lead at halftime, but the Lady Tornadoes did not go away.
"I told them we had to fight," Piney Woods head coach Tyrone Haley said. "We have been in that situation all year long. You have to come out and fight for your life in the second half. They fought."
The Lady Tornadoes went on a 13-2 run midway through the third quarter to cut the lead to 53-46.
"They were more relaxed than we wanted them to be," East Oktibbeha head coach Pam Roberts said. "We told them you can't get comfortable because they are still there and they want this as much as we do."
The Lady Titans kept them at bay for the rest of the third quarter and entered the final frame with a 59-50 lead.
Piney Woods went on a 15-4 run midway through the first quarter to take the lead at 67-66. That was its first lead since leading 11-9 early in the first quarter.
"They stepped up their game and really got in it and stayed with us," Roberts said. "They prohibited us from getting to the basket. We had to step up our game the second half."
The Lady Titans ended the game on 7-3 run to take the victory.
Piney Woods was bitten by the foul bug and had four players foul out in the fourth quarter when the game was on the line.
"Down the stretch, that's what hurt us," Haley said of foul trouble.
Raven Thompson was the spark plug for the Lady Tornadoes but she was the first to exit with 3:21 to go in the fourth quarter.
"It helped us," Roberts said. "It probably would have been nip and tuck if we did get (Thompson) in foul trouble. She got in trouble early, I believe in the third quarter."
The Lady Titans took advantage of the inside. Lydia Stevenson lead East Oktibbeha with 18 points and most of her damage on the low block.
"We had to go back to what we know best; getting the ball into the big man which worked a little better tonight than it has all season," Roberts said.
The first quarter was back and forth with four ties and five lead changes. The Lady Titans eventually took a 19-15 lead into the second quarter.
"I was just glad our girls stepped up and played the defense that we needed and get them out of there," Roberts said.
Piney Woods was led by Kaelyn McNeil with 23 points. Thompson added 19 points and Kiwanda Kelly chipped in 17 points.
Along with Stevenson, Quanisha Doss got in double figures with 15 points.
The Lady Titans travel this weekend to Class A South State with a site to be determined.