3HOUSTON • Nathan Newell pleaded for his team to play defense for four quarters, and they answered the call.
Amory, the No. 3 seed from Division 1, locked in defensively to knock off a short-handed Houston squad on the road, 48-29, in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs.
“Going into someone else’s house and getting a big win, especially in a playoff atmosphere, is a good feeling,” said Newell, who’s in his first year as head coach of the Lady Panthers.
Amory (19-10) will face the winner of Amanda Elzy and Holly Springs in the second round on Wednesday.
Amory led 9-6 at the end of the first quarter as both teams struggled to find a rhythm. But the Lady Panthers held Houston (13-9) to just one field goal in the second quarter, coming at the 1:17 mark, as Jayda Sims and Ashanti Smith provided a spark off the bench, combining for a 10-0 run midway through the period to take a 12-point lead.
“That was huge especially with it being from girls off our bench,” said Newell. “Jayda started tonight due to Amiya Robinson being out, but she’s been stepping it up the last few games, and Ashanti Smith – that’s the one we were high on early in the year. She kind of started out slow, but she’s really come on these last few games.”
The Lady Hilltoppers were dealt a bad hand from the start, down four starters due to various injuries, including leading scorer Amber McIntosh (16.2 ppg), who was out with an ankle injury.
The lack of depth really showed on offense, where Houston turned the ball over 24 times and was 9 of 37 (24.3%) from the field.
“I thought defensively we were fine. We just couldn’t score,” Houston coach Chris Pettit said. “We missed a couple of layups early, and I think we got in our heads a little bit. (Amory) turned us over in that full-court man, and that’s where missing those starters hurt.”
Emma Kate Wright led Amory with 12 points, and Amaya Trimble added 11.
Turning Point: Amory was 1 of 9 from 3-point range in the first half, but in the third quarter, it started 3 for 3 from deep, including two makes from Wright to build a 32-15 lead.
Point Maker: Houston’s lone regular starter, Anna Morgan Jenkins, led all scorers with 18 points, scoring seven of her team’s nine makes from the field.
Talking Point: “I like the shots we were getting, they just weren’t falling. In the second half, we kept getting those same open looks and started knocking them down.” – Newell