The Wilson Central girls basketball team entered the state tournament undefeated at 33-0. However, after leading at halftime, and for much of the second half, they were unable to close out first round opponent Memphis Central, and suffered their first loss, 48-43, ending their season.
After a sluggish first quarter, UT-Martin signee and senior Miss Basketball finalist Kendall Spray helped Wilson Central build a six-point halftime advantage.
“When you play any game you have to try and do two things,” Wilson Central coach John Wild said. “You have to value possession and you’ve got to rebound it. Now I thought we rebounded well all game, and we took care of the ball for about 27 minutes.
“Against someone as athletic as they were, you’ve got to take care of it for a full 32 minutes.”
Spray, who closed out her high school career with a TSSAA-record 393 made 3-pointers, scored 17 of her game-high 21 points in the first half, including a six-minute second-quarter stretch that featured five 3-pointers.
“We turned the defensive intensity up in the second half because we had to make adjustments on (Spray),” Memphis Central coach Rashad Haynes said. “She had 17 of 19 (first-half points), and we had to have a little fortitude about ourselves to stop one player from dominating offensively.”
Spray had a tougher time finding open looks after the break, but junior Piper Elrod was able to give the Lady Wildcats a little spark in the third quarter, and Wilson Central carried a 33-29 lead into the fourth quarter.
“Coach Wild always tells us to keep shooting,” said Elrod, who finished with 11 points and four rebounds. “I’ve been working on my shot a lot from the offseason through this season because we knew teams were going to be guarding Kendall pretty tightly.”
The fourth quarter got ugly, though, as the Lady Warriors strung together an 11-2 run over the first three minutes of the quarter.
Wilson Central would battle back to take the lead in the waning minutes of the game, but turnovers killed the Lady Wildcats down the stretch, and ultimately, it cost them their season.
“I thought that was the difference — our inability to keep possession of the ball in certain circumstances, and that gave them their run,” said Wild, whose Lady Wildcats committed 22 turnovers — 13 in the second half. “When you’ve got five kids with length and athletic ability like they have, it’s tough to try to get through at times.