Lady Panthers overcome struggles in sub-regional matchup

Published 9:18 pm Friday, February 9, 2024

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It was not always pretty, but the Lady Panthers won an all-out war against Fyffe 48-40 in the sub-regionals on Friday. 

At this point in the season, surviving and advancing is all that matters, and that’s what the Panthers did on Friday. Lanett led for the majority of the game but struggles at the charity stripe allowed the Red Devils to cut the lead to four with under a minute left. The Panthers connected on 18 of 44 attempts from the free-throw line. 

The Panthers finally steadied as the clock winded down and closed the game out at the free-throw line. 

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“You start to go deeper and deeper to the next level, it starts to warp in their minds that this free throw is more important than the next,” Lanett coach Charlie Williams said. “It’s just a free throw. You walk up to the line and you take it like the first one you ever took.” 

Lanett’s offense stumbled at times in the matchup, but the Panthers’ defense and rebounding allowed the team to maintain control of the game. 

Nakeriona Heard led the way for the Panthers in the matchup as she finished with 21 points. More important than her points was her effort on the glass. Heard led the team with 18 rebounds from the point guard spot. Heard also added three steals and a block. 

The Red Devils played a unique defense against Lanett, which affected the offense at times. Fyffe packed its zone defense inside and focused two to three defenders on Laila Lancaster. Lancaster still finished with 10 points and eight rebounds. 

“We figured somebody was going to start playing a little packed-in zone or packed-in man,” Williams said. “It didn’t affect us much, we just had to get used to it.” 

With the defense focused solely on taking away points in the paint, the Panthers had a plethora of opportunities from the outside. It was a tough shooting night though as Lanett connected on just one of its 15 attempts from behind the arc. 

Tyra Jackson had another important game for the Panthers as she finished with six points, seven rebounds and two steals. 

Despite a tough showing on the offensive end, the game showed the resiliency of the Lady Panthers. Lanett could have folded at several important junctures as shots were not falling, but the Panthers never blinked and instead tightened up their defense. 

“Well we’ve been in plenty of wars before, so it’s nothing new to them,” Williams said. “At halftime, they said they were just going to keep fighting.” 

With the win, Lanett improved to 21-4 on the season. The Lady Panthers will travel to Jacksonville State University next week for the Northeast Regional.