TYLER --  Liberty-Eylau used a 13-2 fourth-quarter run to hold off a resilient John Tyler squad 60-53 in Friday's semifinal of the Macy Chenevert Patriot Holiday Tournament at UT Tyler.

Liberty-Eylau (13-3), ranked No. 12 in Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Class 3A poll, faces Tyler T.K. Gorman, the TABC's No. 3 team among large private schools, in Saturday's 2:3- p.m. championship at UT Tyler's Herrington-Patriot Center.

John Tyler (14-5) started the fourth quarter on a 6-0 run thanks to Tiaka Lee's three consecutive buckets, giving the Lady Lions a 51-47 advantage. After an Imani Wright fade-away jumper and-1, Morgan Ussey knocked down three buckets of her own to give Liberty-Eylau the lead for good.

Whenever the Lady Leopards needed a score, Wright delivered. The Baylor signee tallied 25 points, 12 rebounds, and four steals. University of Arkansas-Little Rock signee Sharde Collins contributed 12 points and five rebounds, while Lauren Godfrey and Ussey, a sophomore, combined for 17 points and 13 boards.

Lee's 18 points led John Tyler, while freshman Ashtyn Beal totaled 11 points and three steals. Sophomore Amia Wickware had eight points and a team-high 14 rebounds.

The game was heated throughout, with both coaches receiving warnings, and both teams getting technicals.

"We got off to a great start," said Liberty-Eylau coach Robert Cochran. "JT had a great second quarter, and we didn't respond well to some things that happened on the court. We have to do a better job of that. That's my fault. I thought we did a tremendous job of adjusting to how the game was called. I thought it was unfair to both teams to have to adjust in that manner. The last three minutes we switched to a zone defense. They missed five straight threes after that, and that's all we needed."

John Tyler's Tootie Johnson started the second half with a jump shot for a 34-32 JT lead. Wright answered with a jumper of her own, then assisted on a Collins three-pointer. Then Lee went straight to the hole on Wright for the two, and JT grabbed the lead back, 38-37.

After Wright sank two free throws after a steal, Collins picked up a technical foul. After Lee drained one of two free throws, Wright answered with a long-range three.

"It was enjoyable to watch, as hard as the two teams were playing," said John Tyler coach Mike Smith. "I felt like the intensity was there, and (Liberty-Eylau) is a great ball club. We're coming together, and we needed to play somebody like Liberty-Eylau. They help us to play better, and we needed to see this kind of game before we start district."

After an intentional foul was called on Liberty-Eylau's Aliza Piggy on the next series, Lee knocked down 1 of 2 free throws to bring JT within two, 42-40. Sophomore DeeDee Rouge's putback made it 44-42 L-E.

Then Wright, like most of the night, answered the bell with another 25-foot three to push the Lady Leopards' edge to 47-42. Lee sank a three as time expired in the third to bring JT within two, 47-45.

A 15-2 John Tyler run helped the Lady Lions build a 10-point second quarter lead, but Liberty-Eylau whittled the lead to within three before Piggy hit a buzzer-beating triple as the first-half clock expired to tie the game 32-32.

John Tyler opens District 16-4A at Lindale on Friday.


Other results from Friday's action at the Macy Chenevert Patriot Holiday Tournament ...

  • Willis Point 50, Kilgore 41
  • John Tyler 60, Pine Tree 48
  • Hallsville 50, Willis Point 46
  • Henderson 49, Tyler Grace 47
  • Lindale 72, Pleasant Grove 63
  • Tyler T.K. Gorman 66, Lindale 46