Priceville can't unseat Deshler
By By Todd Thompson, Hartselle Enquirer
HANCEVILLE - The Deshler basketball program has become a thorn in the sides of a lot of Class 4A teams in the last decade.
Add Priceville to the list.
Deshler shook off a poor shooting performance Saturday to hand Priceville a 58-53 season-ending loss in the Northwest Regional championship game. The regional championship was the ninth straight for the Lady Tigers, one of the state’s most dominating Class 4A programs during that run of titles.
Priceville struggled early in the game, but battled back to lead by four points early in the third quarter. The Lady Bulldogs, who came into the game with an impressive nine-game winning streak just couldn’t find an answer to Deshler post player Ashley Southern.
Southern scored 17 points, including eight points in the third quarter, as Deshler regained control of the game to earn a spot in the Class 4A semifinals against Midfield at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center.
Jasmine Ragland scored a team-high 19 points for Deshler, while Jothani Dixon added 11 points.
But it was Southern’s dominating presence inside that proved fatal for Priceville.
Southern was 7 of 17 from the field and added 14 rebounds for the Lady Tigers.
Deshler, the state runners-up in 2008, have made themselves at home in Hanceville over the past eight seasons. But with a team that had just one senior on the roster, this might have been one of the biggest victories for the program in Hanceville.
But head coach Jana Killen won’t be cornered into proclaiming this regional championship as the best.
Unseating a dynasty can be a tough task. Still, Mason believed that the Priceville players understood what was at stake in the championship. Deshler’s run in the regionals never became a rallying point for the Priceville players going into the game. Mason and assistant Terrie Nelson preferred, instead, to focus on playing fundamentally sound basketball, something the Lady Bulldogs have been doing since the holiday break in December when the team was struggling around the .500 mark.
Priceville finished its season with a 21-11 record.
Melissa Johnson had team-highs with 17 points and 14 rebounds, while Jordan Crow came off the bench to score 11 points. Keila Hamlin, a 1,000-point scorer for the Lady Bulldogs, was limited to just seven points in the loss after making just three of 18 shots from the field under heavy defensive pressure.
Hamlin and Johnson were both named to the regional all-tournament team along with Ragland and Southern. Also honored were Lawrence County’s Nakia McDaniel and Rogers’ Laken White.
Priceville’s offense was slow to untrack as the Lady Bulldogs committed 12 turnovers in the first half against the Lady Tigers’ defense. But Mason thought the Lady Bulldogs did a good job of moving the ball up court against the full court press.
Many of Priceville’s mistakes came when the Lady Bulldogs had already gotten the ball across mid-court.
Deshler opened up leads of as much as eight points in the first half before Priceville posted a 12-3 run that gave the Lady Bulldogs their first lead of the game at 19-18 with 5:11 remaining in the half.
But the Lady Tigers answered Priceville’s run with seven straight points to push out to a six-point advantage. Deshler led 25-23 after Priceville’s Callie Cox and Hamlin scored baskets in the final three minutes of the half.
Priceville added the first six points of the third quarter to take the lead at 29-25, but Deshler moved back in front two minutes later on a Dixon 3-pointer.
Deshler never trailed again, opening up leads of as much as eight points through the fourth quarter as the Lady Tigers hit 14 straight free throws to seal the win.