MONTGOMERY — Winterboro’s season came to an end Tuesday night at the Dunn-Oliver Acadome in Montgomery following a 47-29 loss to Akron in the Class 1A Central Regional Tournament.
Akron knocked Winterboro out of the playoffs one season ago in the same building.
“We took our time and took advantage of our lead and used a lot of diversity in our play,” said Akron head coach David West. “The girls really stepped up and thought about what they were going to do before they did it. We wanted to be patient and continue establishing our dominance.”
With the win, the Lady Rams advance to the Elite Eight and hope to return to the Final Four for the second straight season.
“I have a lot of seniors and I really want to give them the opportunity to go to the finals,” West said.
Kadijah Small scored 15 points and pulled down 13 rebounds to lead the Lady Rams, who led the entire game. Valencia McCain had 11 rebounds and eight points.
Lack of height was a problem for Winterboro throughout the game. McCain and Small towered over the Lady Bulldogs and combined for 24 rebounds.
As a team, Akron outrebounded Winterboro 52-19.
“Height played a big part,” said Winterboro head coach Sheroderick Smith. “I lost my starting post player (Tiffany Vincent) due to injury. I’ve actually lost a couple more over the years, but the loss in my mind is unacceptable. I know we could have played better than that. This loss is not sitting well in my stomach.”
Jasmine Richardson had nine points, six rebounds and five steals to lead Winterboro.
“I really think (Richardson’s) performance tonight was something she has to go through to become a better player,” Smith said. “If you see talent in a young girl, everybody wants them to be on every night, every year. Good players go through down weeks, down months or even a down year. It wasn’t the outcome or performance that I wanted, but I understand as a player and a coach that sometimes you have to go through that. Maybe it’s going to fuel her junior year. The loss is never on one person.”
Tenesha Merritt added nine points for the Lady Bulldogs, while Anslea Twymon and Nadia Estelle had four each. Estelle led the team with seven rebounds.
“I feel like we could have performed better,” Merritt said. “We could have been more together as a team and build off each other. At the end of the day, a loss is a loss and we’re going home now.”
Akron got off to a blistering start, scoring on each of its first four possessions.
Small got things going for the Lady Rams, and Raven Fields hit a 3-pointer to make it 5-0. McCain made it 9-0 at the 5:26 mark of the first quarter, forcing a Winterboro timeout.
Winterboro’s defense improved following the timeout, and Richardson got the Lady Bulldogs on the board with a pair of free throws.
Merritt ran nearly the length of the court on a layup and completed a 3-point play to make it 9-5.
Akron led 11-5 after the first quarter.
The Lady Rams pushed their lead to 10 points in the opening stages of the second quarter and took a 25-13 lead into the locker room.
Down 31-15, Winterboro had a short 6-0 run in the third quarter to cut the lead back to 10.
Toward the end of the run at the 3:08 mark, Richardson was fouled hard by McCain. She was benched for two minutes before returning to the game.
The Lady Rams held a comfortable 39-25 lead heading into the final quarter, and cruised to the 18-point win.
The Lady Bulldogs shot a dismal 12-for-41 (29 percent) from the field. The Lady Rams went 21-for-56 (37.5 percent.)
“We didn’t come out ready to play,” Richardson said. “We tried to score as much as we could. I think we could have won this game, but we just didn’t try. Next year we have a lot to work on if we want to be back here next year. We just have to play like we’ve been playing, but better.”
Winterboro will lose just one player off its team to graduation — Jammie Duncan. Smith said he’ll have the same starting five coming back, but with more postseason experience.
Merritt will be a senior next season and said she’s not planning another early exit from the 2013 playoffs.
“Next year when we come back I’m not going home,” Merritt said. “That’s just my attitude. I’m not going to come back here again in my senior year and have to go home without a ring. We’re going to fight until we get there.”
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