By Brennon Keys
By Brennon Keys
OF THE COMMERCIAL STAFF
In its second game of the Southeast Arkansas Invitational, host Pine Bluff pulled out a thrilling victory over visiting Dumas 47-46 Thursday night.
The win left the Fillies (1-2) with a record of 1-1 in the Invitational, good enough to currently tie the Lady Cats for second place in the round robin-style tournament.
Dumas had a chance to tie the game in the final half-second. A’Diamond Johnson forced a turnover with 4 seconds left for a final shot, which resulted in Shabr’an Richardson being sent to the line for two shots with 0.5 second on the clock. Richardson missed the first free throw, and Dumas coach Glory Slater took a time out, seemingly to set up a purposely-missed shot with the hope of a tip-in.
On the second free throw, however, the shot rimmed in, and Pine Bluff simply inbounded the pass for the win.
“I’m seeing improvement; obviously we’ve got a long way to go,” Pine Bluff coach Loy Moore said. “I think it’s getting better; we’ve just gotta keep playing.”
Turnovers, a recurring theme for Pine Bluff early in this season, again reared their ugly head as both teams heard whistles on every possession. However, the Fillies’ offense was able to overcome, looking alive as they pushed the pace and got to the hoop easier than normal.
“I’m very pleased,” Moore said. “I mean they’re a very good basketball team. That’s a quality win. You’re gonna see them do well in the state this year.”
The pace started off extremely slow, considering Dumas’ great ball-handling ability and shooting prowess. Senior center Richardson played only the second half for disciplinary reasons, finishing with 10 points and four rebounds, and was a key component in the Dumas’ comeback attempt that fell short.
“I’m a disciplinarian,” Slater said. “Not to say that the outcome would be different, but (Richardson) was supposed to be starting. She just happens to be my niece, but she didn’t do something I asked her to do. I meant to sit her for the whole game.”
Being on the right end of a flurry of fast breaks was a change of scenery for the Fillies, as seniors Brittany Wright and Jalisa Smith scored six and eight points in the first half, all on transition buckets. Pine Bluff continued building the lead as Smith found her rhythm and caught fire from the field, scoring six points and grabbing four rebounds in the second quarter to help push the lead to 25-14 at halftime.
“She’s our leading rebounder and (junior Marquietta Armour) is our next one, and they both fouled out,” Moore said. “We were out there with five guards basically, and they took advantage of it.”
The tide turned following halftime, as Dumas went on a 7-0 run to start the third quarter. Pine Bluff’s Aija Richardson pulled up for two on the ensuing possession and Wright hit a wide-open three-pointer to push the lead back to 31-21. The sophomore finished the quarter with eight points on smooth mid-range jump shots from the wing and fast-break layups.
The teams went back and forth throughout the third quarter, with Pine Bluff still leading 37-26 entering the fourth.
“I have a very, very talented group,” Slater said. “I got a lot of young people. They’ve got to realize, especially the sophomores, that this is a different game.
“I thought I was a fundamental coach, but we still lack some fundamentals. It’s the little bitty things that win championships.”
Wright missed a free throw, but got a long rebound and putback off of the miss to keep a 41-38 Pine Bluff lead with 2:50 left in the game. Fillies junior Ashmere Nelson pick-pocketed a Dumas player and found teammate Victoria Broady open for a lay-up, then Nelson got open for a lay-up of her own to push the lead back to 46-39 with less than a minute remaining.
Dumas scored two consecutive baskets to close the deficit to 46-43, but fouled Broady and sent her to the line, where she buried a crucial free throw to keep it a two-possession game. Johnson caught a tipped pass under the hoop to pull within 47-45 with 14 seconds remaining.