Tyler Lee Clinches Playoff Spot With 56-42 Win Over Garland Naaman Forest In Finale
TYLER -- Much like the majority of their season, the Tyler Lee Lady Raiders were forced to overcome adversity on the regular season's final night with a berth in the playoffs on the line.
An injury and foul trouble kept two of Lee's starters on the bench for the majority of the night, but the Lady Raiders came alive in the second half for a 56-42 victory over Garland Naaman Forest on Tuesday night, sealing the fourth and final playoff spot from District 11-6A for Tyler Lee.
The Lady Raiders (13-16, 7-7) will face District 12-6A champion Killeen (20-9) next week in the bi-district round of the Class 6A playoffs. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday in Fairfield. Meanwhile, Naaman Forest concluded its season at 10-20 overall and 6-8 in league competition.
"If anybody deserves a playoff opportunity, it's these kids at Robert E. Lee," said first-year Lee coach Nigel Boyles, moments after being showered with a bucket full of ice water by her players. "And I'm just excited to be at Robert E. Lee, and get us back in the playoffs. There's so much tradition here in women's basketball, and I just want to help us bring it back."
The outlook appeared bleak for Tyler Lee at the outset after senior Berjae Lewis exited with a knee injury and did not return. To make matters worse, fellow starter Erin Brinkley picked up three fouls early in the first half and played sparingly the rest of the way.
"Their goal was playoffs in August, and you've got to give it to a team that's went through adversity," Boyles said. "We went through adversity tonight. We had two of our starters on the bench for the majority of the night. They fought through it, they believed in themselves, and I couldn't be happier for them."
Senior Night festivities might have taken place prior to Tuesday's tipoff, but it was a promising freshman that stole the show for the Lady Raiders. Jakayla Bowie scored a team-high 18 points to go with two rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
"Jakayla is a special kind of kid, and I'm just lucky that she's here and we're going to have her for four years," Boyles said. "She's a gamer. When the game's on the line, you can trust her with the basketball. I think she's going to be big-time in the future."
Alex Thorne added 13 points, three rebounds and two steals, Tree Brooks had eight points and six assists, and Olivia Eweni chipped in with six points, 10 boards and a pair of assists to help pick up the slack for the absence of Lewis and Brinkley.
Naaman Forest was led in defeat by Jade Compton, who finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds and three steals. No other player scored in double digits.
Neither team played well in the opening half. Tyler Lee was forced into several turnovers and was outrebounded by a wide margin in the first 16 minutes, while Naaman Forest struggled both from the field and the free-throw line.
Despite the tough start, Lee went into the locker room with a 21-15 lead. The Lady Raiders seized control midway through the second half, going on a 14-2 run at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter that stretched Lee's lead to 46-26.
Naaman Forest never got closer than 11 points the rest of the way.
"We came out in the second half and we changed our defense up; we went box-and-one on their shooting guard to make sure she didn't shoot them back in the game," Boyles said. "I think that threw them off a little bit because we haven't showed that coverage all year. I think it was just a combination of the girls staying poised, us mixing up our defenses and trying to keep them off-balance, and the kids just hitting big shots at big times."
As for the status of Lewis, who was on crunches with ice wrapped around her left knee after the game, Boyles said it remains unclear.
"I'll be praying for her all night tonight, and I'm hoping that she's going to make it back," the coach said. "I'll tell ya, if anybody will be back, it's Berjae Lewis."
Tyler Lee 56, Garland Naaman Forest 42
District 11-6A Girls Basketball
At Lee Varsity Gymnasium, Tyler
Naaman Forest 11 4 9 18 -- 42
Tyler Lee 12 9 17 18 -- 56
NAAMAN FOREST (10-20, 6-8) -- Jade Compton, 21; Amanda Barlow, 7; Jasmine Sadler, 5; Ishia Jones, 4; Janyah Crabtree, 4; Jade Kirby, 1.
TYLER LEE (13-6, 7-7) -- Jakayla Bowie, 18; Alex Thorne, 13; Tree Brooks, 8; Olivia Eweni, 6; Erin Brinkley, 4; Tyreeshia Blaylock, 3; Alexia Hawkins, 2; Berjae Lewis, 2.
THREE-POINT GOALS -- Naaman Forest: Barlow, Compton. Tyler Lee: Bowie, Thorne.