Southern Sports & Travel, By Darron Thomas
For those basketball fans who enjoy a run and gun style with defense just an afterthought Pelahatchie wasn’t the place for you on Saturday evening. If you’re a basketball purist with a deep appreciation of the art of playing defense in an emotion filled playoff atmosphere you surely would have been pleased to discover that the game is still played with that emphasis in some high school sectors. The build up to the battle between top ranked Presbyterian and second ranked East Rankin proved it wasn’t just hype but rather a prelude to what was to come. The best in what girls high school basketball has to offer was in full display before a jam packed and deafening crowd in the Coach Billy Rhodes Gymnasium on the campus of East Rankin Academy.
East Rankin had battled back from being down six points halfway through the final quarter in a game where points were at a premium to earn a 36-32 win in an all out war. In a game that pitted the best two players in MAIS girls basketball, Brooke Rhodes of East Rankin and Katye Magee of Presbyterian, the biggest shot came from East Rankin guard Brianna May who canned a 3-pointer from the corner with 39 seconds remaining to give the Lady Patriots a lead they would not relinquish. (Above) Erin Holifield (#20) of Presbyterian defended by Bridget Byrd (#10) and Brooke Rhodes (#23) of East Rankin
Brooke Rhodes got East Rankin off to an early 2-0 lead as the senior converted a steal in the backcourt into an easy lay-in two minutes into the opening quarter. That 2-0 lead remained unchanged until the 2:16 mark when Rachel Knight canned an 8 foot jumper from the baseline to put the Lady Patriots on top 4-0. Presbyterian scored their first basket of the game on the next possession as Katye Magee drained a 17 footer from the wing to cut the lead in half at 4-2 with 2:06 remaining in the first quarter. While just three combined baskets were scored in the first 7:50 of the quarter the last ten seconds included an Erin Holifield offensive rebound and put back to tie the game at 4-4 with just 10 seconds on the clock and with time winding down East Rankin’s Rachel Knight hit a jumper from 7 feet to give the Lady Patriots a 6-4 advantage heading into the second quarter. (Above) East Rankin timeout late in the fourth quarter
Erin Holifield started the second quarter with a quick basket and then hit a turnaround jumper from the block to put the Lady Bobcats up 8-6 at the 6:41 mark. East Rankin answered with five straight points as Kaitlyn Coghlan went baseline for a basket, Rachel Knight pulled down an offensive rebound and scored and Brooke Rhodes converted on one of two free throws to put the Lady Patriots back on top 11-8. With just under two minutes remaining in the half Katye Magee nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key to knot things up at 13-13. The half would end with a Brianna May jumper from the free throw line and Erin Holifield’s basket off an offensive rebound with the score 15-15.
Neither team displayed any signs of retreat to begin the second half as each possession seemed to have players diving for a loose ball. Brianna May’s 3-pointer from the wing and a Brooke Rhodes free throw gave East Rankin a slim 19-15 advantage three minutes into the third quarter. Presbyterian regained the lead at 20-19 with 54 seconds remaining in the quarter when Erin Holifield knocked down a 3-pointer from the wing and a Katye Magee driving basket with 7 seconds left gave the Lady Bobcats their biggest lead at 22-19 to end the quarter. (Above) Presbyterian grabbed a six point lead midway through the fourth quarter
Presbyterian threatened to pull away in the opening minutes of the final quarter as Magee hit a 3-pointer from the wing for a 25-19 lead but Brianna May countered with a 3-pointer of her own on the next possession to pull East Rankin back to within three points at 25-22 with 7:21 remaining. Presbyterian took a 30-24 lead at the 4:19 mark when Trista Magee hit a 3-pointer from the corner. The Lady Bobcats maintained a lead for 7:21 of the fourth quarter but with 39 seconds remaining, and Presbyterian clinging to a 32-30 lead, junior guard Brianna May calmly canned a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Lady Patriots a 33-32 lead causing a deafening response from the East Rankin crowd. (Above) Brooke Rhodes looking to get the ball to Rachel Knight (#35) in the post
After Presbyterian failed in their attempt to retake the lead Bridget Byrd was fouled and hit one of two free throws to put East Rankin up 34-32 with 19 seconds remaining. Following a Presbyterian time-out Erin Holifield’s drive and shot attempt rolled off the side rim with 9 seconds left and Brooke Rhodes pulled down the rebound and was immediately fouled. Rhodes sank both free throws to seal a 36-32 win.
Rhodes of East Rankin led all scorers with 12 points, Brianna May added 11, Rachel Knight and Kaitlyn Coghlan had 6 each and Bridget Byrd 1.
For Presbyterian Erin Holifield had 11 points, Katye Magee added 10, Alex Bradley and Erin Smith had 4 each and Trista Magee 3.
With the win East Rankin improves to 26-2 overall and will take on Jackson Prep on Tuesday.
Presbyterian slips to 19-6 and will be at Bay High also on Tuesday. (Above) East Rankin's Rachel Knight (#35) defended by Erin Holifield of Presbyterian
Post game comments:
East Rankin head coach Michael McAnally
“Physical and a little ugly are the two things that come to mind for me and not a lot of scoring. We’ve had these kinds of contests with Presbyterian in the past where there’s just not a lot of scoring. Both teams defend so well and the atmosphere and adrenaline kind of makes things ugly in the first half. I think you saw some of that tonight until the teams settled down. We just had a terrible time getting shots because they defended so well.”
What was the mindset near the end of the game?
“We went down six points at one point 25-19 and it was hard for us to get into any flow on offense. We just needed someone to step up and make plays. I thought Brianna May played outstanding. She hit a big three late in the game that gave us the lead and she was really big. The stars, the Brooke Rhodes and Katye Magee’s, kind of balance each other out but the role players are the ones that have to step up and Brianna May really did that for us tonight.”
What does this kind of win do for your team going forward?
“It gives us a lot of confidence going forward. We’re two pretty good teams. There are a lot of good teams and you never know what’s going to happen, but there’s a pretty good chance that we’ll see each other again. You don’t want to say you went 0-2 in the regular season against them so it balances things out. Our team knows we can beat them and our team knows we can play better. I’m sure Coach Bilderback will say the same thing. We just have to learn to be a little sharper and I thought there were times we gave up some easy baskets. We didn’t take advantage of some easy looks down low that we have to make and we had some defensive breakdowns but give them credit for putting that kind of pressure on us.”
Could it have gotten any louder today?
“It was pretty funny, when we talked about our new seating we wondered if we would ever need it. I think today proved that we did. If not for the new seating this place would have been really full. A lot of fun today, two good basketball teams and two passionate fan bases. This is what makes my job and your job and just high school basketball so special.”