Rams, Cardinals now tied for first in conference

A fourth-quarter rally Tuesday night has positioned Jacksonville for a possible share of the Coastal 3A Conference girls’ basketball title.

Thanks to a 13-1 run, the Cardinals came back from a nine-point, fourth-quarter deficit to defeat Havelock 60-59 in a game featuring the league’s top two teams.

Jacksonville trailed 49-40 after the third quarter, but held the Rams to 4 of 11 shooting and forced seven turnovers while making 6 of 10 from the field.

“We told ourselves before the fourth quarter that we were not losing,” senior forward Taylor Todd-Williams said. “We just had to keep our composure.”

Jacksonville (21-1, 10-1) and Havelock (20-2, 10-1) are tied for first place with one regular-season game left. It’s likely the squads will share the regular-season title for the second consecutive season since the Cardinals visit White Oak (2-18, 0-11) on Thursday and the Rams are at West Craven (2-20, 2-9).

“We are right back where we were last year,” said Havelock coach Anna Spear, whose team beat Jacksonville last year in the conference tournament final to break their stalemate and also defeated the Cardinals 66-56 earlier this season. “Tonight, we were in control of the game, but we had multiple turnovers, our finishing didn’t exist and our decision-making … the biggest thing in the end was that Jacksonville came at us all night.”

Havelock’s Aniylah Bryant made a 3-pointer with 5:18 left to extend her team’s lead to 54-47.

That’s when the Cardinals scored 13 of the game’s next 14 points, starting with a jump shot by Lani Page. A free throw by Bryant – she missed two others on the same trip to the line – was sandwiched around a 3-pointer and a layup by Jacksonville’s Areon Laurent, the latter giving Jacksonville a 55-54 lead with 1:35 remaining.

Kennedy Todd-Williams made two free throws 14 seconds later to make it 57-54. Moments later, Laurent appeared to have sealed the win when she hit two free throws with 33 seconds left to make it 60-55, but Isidre DeJesus nailed a jumper with 24.4 seconds left to cut the lead to 60-57.

After a Havelock stop, Bryant made a layup with 12 seconds left. The Rams attempted to foul but the Cardinals ran out the final few seconds.

“We just had to keep our composure,” JHS coach Monique Gidrey said. “We were shaky at the beginning of the game. Havelock is a great team and they always give us a run for our money.”

Laurent ended with 16 points and 8 rebounds. She finished 4 of 18 from the field, but came on strong in the fourth quarter with 7 points. Nya Mitchels had 10 points and 15 rebounds, Kiani Gravely had 10 points and Taylor Todd-Williams added 8 points and 12 rebounds.

The Cardinals’ pressure defense led to Havelock mistakes down the stretch, which Jacksonville capitalized on with transition baskets.

“We were trying to control their 3-point shooters, No. 10 (Bryant) and No. 22 (Nyasia Blango) by putting pressure on them,” Gidrey said. “We tried to throw different defenses on them.”

Offensively, Jacksonville attacked more in the half-court set.

“We wanted to move the ball in the post more,” Todd-Williams said. “We saw their foul count and we tried to drive so they could foul us.”

That plan worked. Not only did Jacksonville shoot 60 percent from the floor in the fourth, the Cardinals shoot 11 fourth-quarter free throws, making seven.

“The last time we played them we were out of our game,” Todd-Williams said. “We needed to show them who we really were.”

Boxscore

Havelock 19 8 22 10 – 59

Jacksonville 15 17 8 20 – 60

HAVELOCK (59) – Harden 12, Bryant 18, Hardee 2, Brown 3, Blango 17, Fisher 5, DeJesus 2. Totals– 23-59 5-9 59.

JACKSONVILLE (60) – K. Todd-Williams 9, Page 2, Marrero 5, T. Todd-Williams 8, Laurent 16, Mitchels 10, Gravely 10. Totals– 21-59 12-23 60.

3-point goals – H 8 (Blango 3, Harden 2, Bryant 2, Fisher), J 6 (Laurent 3, Gravely 2, Marrero). Rebounds – H 31 (Hardee 9, Harden 8), J 51 (Mitchels 15, T. Todd-Williams 12, Laurent 8). RECORDS – H: 20-2, 10-1, at West Craven on Thursday. J: 21-1, 10-1, at White Oak on Thursday.