Lanett advances to state semifinals with win over Ider

Published 8:00 pm Tuesday, February 21, 2023

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The Lanett Lady Panthers used their size and speed to take down Ider 52-46 Tuesday in the 2A northeast regional championship.

Lanett will await their opponent, who will be either Francis Marion or Cold Springs, but this will be the third straight state semifinal appearance for Lanett.

Nakeriona Heard was named the tournament MVP, and she led the Lady Panthers in scoring with 21 points.

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Williams was pleased with how his girls fought to the end.

“It was a tough win,” Williams said.

“I thought we had a great game plan. Ider packed the middle and tried to force us to take jump shots. They made a couple runs on us, but I’m proud of our girls for keeping their poise.”

The first quarter showed the defensive intensity between both teams as neither the Lady Panthers or Lady Hornets scored until Ameria Ziegler hit a layup three minutes into the game.

Makayla Davis hit her own layup to extend the lead to 4-o, but Ider’s dangerous perimeter game started working when KK Wilborn hit a three to get the Lady Hornets on the board.

The first quarter continued to be a back and forth battle between the two teams, but Lanett was able to use its depth to take a 13-11 lead at the end of the first quarter.

One of the surprises of the first half was Lanett’s Tyra Jackson, who hit three out of her four baskets off the bench.

Ider’s only lead of the entire first half was late in the second quarter when a Wilborn layup gave the Lady Hornets a 10-9 lead.

The second quarter looked much better for Lanett as the Panthers started with five straight points from MaKiah White, Laila Lancaster and Nakeriona Heard.

Both teams traded free throws, but Lanett held on to a 21-15 lead with just over four minutes left in the half.

The Lady Panthers took their largest lead of the half when Heard hit a three to put Lanett ahead 26-19 with just under three minutes in the half.

Ider’s Wilborn scored three more points to help Ider shorten the Lanett lead to 28-25 at halftime.

Heard led the Lady Panthers in scoring with 10 points and added three steals and four assists.

The biggest win for Lanett in the first half was holding a good three-point shooting team to only 16.7% from beyond the arc.

Lanett had its own troubles only making one of seven threes in the first half.

The third quarter was a completely different story as Ider’s offense woke up, and the Lady Hornets opened up with an 11-2 run with baskets from Cambree Chapman, Kenzie Smith, Makinley Traylor and Julie Mavity.

Ider took its first lead of the half with a Smith three early in the third to take a 31-28 lead.

Lanett responded with baskets from  Jackson and Heard, and Heard tied it up at 36 with 30 seconds left in the quarter.

Unfortunately for Lanett, one of their eight third quarter fouls led to Ider making both free throws and taking a 38-36 lead heading into the final quarter.

Laila Lancaster opened the fourth with a massive layup to draw a foul and tie the game back up at 38.

Samariah Davidson gave Lanett its first lead since the third quarter with a layup to make it 40-38, but Ider responded with three from Mavity to retake the lead with six and a half minutes left.

Lanett responded with baskets from Heard and Lancaster to take a 44-43 lead with four and a half minutes left.

MaKiah White committed a foul in transition that led to Traylor making both free throws and giving Ider a 45-44 lead with two minutes left.

After a few missed shots from Lanett, Heard hit a jumper with just under two minutes left to retake the lead.

Heard immediately committed a foul after the basket, but Traylor only hit one of her free throws to tie the game up at 46.

On the ensuing possession, Ariel Hall missed a jumper, but Lancaster used her size to get in the paint, get the offensive rebound and make the layup while drawing a foul.

Lancaster made the free throw to give Lanett a three-point lead with only 28 seconds left.

Heard made up for her previous mistake with a steal and a drawn foul.

She hit one of her free throws to give the Lady Panthers a 50-46 lead with 20 seconds left, and Ider’s Allie Pruett turned the ball over on the other end.

Mavity committed a foul on Heard with 13 seconds left, and Heard made both free throws to secure the win.

Williams explained how his team stayed calm in the final seconds.

“We’ve been in a lot of games,” Williams said,

“This is our third straight final four. It’s good that we have seniors. They take care of the small things like calming them down. I’m proud of my seniors.”

Lancaster explained how she stayed poised enough to make a key play in the final minute.

“It was awesome,” Lancaster said.

“I’m happy that we got the win.”

Heard knew she needed to stay focused in the final seconds.

“We just locked in,” Heard said.

“We knew that we needed to cut down on turnovers, so we can win the game and go to the final four.”

Lanett struggled at the free throw line only making nine of 24, but Williams knew his girls could overcome it.

“There’s no time machine in basketball,” Williams said.

“You can’t go back. You just have to stay disciplined. Ider did a good job in the first quarter with their motion offense. I could tell my girls were anxious at the beginning of the game. I’m proud of their poise. Ider doesn’t play a traditional offense. For me, I have to decide of I want to sacrifice defense with size or offense.”

Lanett’s biggest challenge was locking down Makinley Traylor, and the Panthers held her to 30% shooting.

“We wanted to make her work,” Williams said.

“We did a terrible job in the first half. She got down the court, but we did a better job in the second half. You can’t stop her.”

Williams knows there’s work to be done for Lanett to finally win a state championship.

“We have to get over the hump,” Williams said.

“We’ve been there back to back years. We lost to a great Pisgah team last year. We have to get to the next step. We’re happy. We’re excited, but we’re not content. That loss last year prepared us. It taught us to put our big girl pants on and play basketball.”

Ider coach Jeremy Pruett said Lanett’s length proved to be too much for his team.

“I thought it was going to be a battle from the get go,” Pruett said. “We’re way undersized, and I thought we would shoot the ball a little better. I thought the game plan was good. We couldn’t keep them off the boards. They’re extremely long. We played man most of the night, but we just slacked off a lot. They hit some 15 footers there in the first half.”

Lanett will play on Monday in Birmingham for a shot at the state championship game.