Lady Jackets fall to powerful Canton

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The Mineola Lady Jackets hopes of bringing home the Macy Chenevert Patriot Holiday Classic championship were dashed as the Lady Jackets dropped their semi-final 55–50 to the Canton Eaglettes on Dec. 28. Coming off opening round wins over Atlanta (69–53) and All Saints (58–37), the Lady Jackets were playing for the right to take on Jacksonville in the championship game at UT Tyler.

A lack of consistency derailed Mineola’s normally potent offensive punch, while 10 first-half turnovers contributed to the herky-jerky nature of the play and eliminated any possibility of building momentum.

The Class 4A powerhouse Canton Eaglettes jumped out to a quick lead, and using solid positional basketball retained the lead until one minute left in the opening quarter. Sabria Dean drilled three-pointer from the top of the key and gave Mineola their first lead of the night at 10-9. Canton answered with two three-pointers before the quarter expired to go up 16-10.

The second quarter mirrored the first – far too many turnovers, exhaustive defensive efforts by both squads, and brief moments of pure basketball execution. The Lady Jackets provided two such moments. Down by two midway through the second quarter, Dean blocked a Canton shot attempt under the goal, raced up court with the ball, drove the baseline and dished a beautiful assist to Jessiah Riley for a score.

Two minutes later, Riley sprang free from a set-piece inbound play in the offensive zone and lay in a score undisturbed. The screening action on this play was excellent.

In the final seconds of the half, Mineola was down three after a well-executed Canton give-and-go. Mineola advanced the ball up court and Dean hit a three-pointer to beat the buzzer. At the half, the score was knotted at 21.

Mineola sent Canton to the line nine times in the third quarter, a trend which continued for the remainder of the night. In one of the moments of free-flowing play, Tahjae Black scored from the baseline, giving the Lady Jackets a short-lived 28–27 advantage.

The Lady Jackets continued to give up turnovers, six in the third quarter. While Mineola struggled to break the Canton press, Canton was carving up the Mineola press with crisp passing. Once the press was broken, Canton was immediately attacking the basket, and although they missed a number of layups, they drew fouls on the shot attempts.

At the quarter break the score stood 39–34, Canton. The Eaglettes maintained the lead from the mid-point of the third quarter through the final buzzer. Mineola closed once within two when Riley hit a nice shot from the baseline, but no momentum could be mustered.

In the final four minutes, legs on both sides got tired and Canton began reaching, which kept sending Mineola to the line. With two minutes to play, the Lady Jackets were within two once again, 46–44. Two Canton layups and a trip to the foul line opened the lead again.

Sabria Dean hit a triple with under a minute to pay to make the score 55–50, but Mineola could generate no more offense.

On a night featuring a 28-point performance by Dean, the Lady Jackets seemed disjointed. The aggressive defensive effort of the Eaglettes certainly impacted overall performance. Mineola’s susceptibility to backdoor breaks to the basket was also exposed.

Despite the problems, Mineola was in the game up until the final buzzer, and against a 4A Division powerhouse. Tourney wins over Atlanta and All Saints demonstrated a Lady Jackets team in synch.This team has a lot to be proud of coming out of the Chenevert Tourney.

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