Watson Chapel’s Kierra Cox brings the ball across center court with heavy pressure from Nettleton’s Cleora Rulford on Tuesday in a 5A first-round game at the Pine Bluff Convention Center. (Special to the Commercial/William Harvey)
Watson Chapel junior Kierra Cox knocked down a pair of free throws with 13.9 seconds left and Nettleton turned it over on its next possession as the Lady Wildcats escaped with a 29-28 win Tuesday night at the Pine Bluff Convention Center in the first round of the 5A state tournament.
Watson Chapel did not trail until the fourth quarter when Nettleton’s Ali Tucker hit a three-pointer with 50 seconds left to give the Lady Raiders their first lead at 28-27.
Nettleton outscored Chapel 13-6 in the fourth quarter to rally from an eight-point deficit. Watson Chapel’s only field goal in the fourth quarter was a layup by senior Chelsea Payne that gave the Lady Wildcats a 27-23 lead with 1:40 left in the game.
“I felt like we were a bit timid,” Watson Chapel head coach Leslie Henderson said. “We played on Thursday in an up-and-down game and we played a bit better then.”
Neither team could really get anything going in the first half as Chapel led 12-9 at the end of the first half.
“It was frustrating to watch,” Henderson said. “So I know it had to be frustrating for them.”
Henderson said Nettleton did a good job of “packing it inside.”
“You have a chance for a wide open shot and you miss it,” Henderson said. “Then you have another wide open shot and you miss that too. After a while, it becomes a mental thing.”
Nettleton cut the deficit to 25-22 in the fourth quarter after five straight points from Tucker with 3:55 left in the game.
With 1:20 left in the game, Tucker hit a three-pointer from the top of the key to get the Lady Raiders within two points.
Tucker finished with four three-pointers on the night and she led Nettleton with 14 points.
Once Watson Chapel took their final lead of the game, Nettleton had a chance to reclaim the lead in the final seconds.
However, Alexis Beliew lost control of her dribble and turned the ball over with about 6 seconds left in the game.
Beliew contributed with 10 points in the game for Nettleton.
Cox led Watson Chapel with 16 points while Payne chipped in with eight and Chapel Jones scored five.
Senior Kamera Bozeman, who usually scores in the double figures, was held to just two points.
“We didn’t get a real good effort from Bozeman tonight,” Henderson said.
Watson Chapel will play the winner of Little Rock Christian and Clarksville at 1 p.m. Friday.
“Hopefully this was just a one of those games and we will come out with a better performance in the next game,” Henderson said.