Ea­gles beat High­land in clash of con­tenders

Lan­caster moves into tie for first

Antelope Valley Press - - FRONT PAGE - By JOHN SAN­DERS Val­ley Press Sports Cor­re­spon­dent

LAN­CASTER — The Lan­caster girls’ bas­ket­ball team has al­ways been the hunted. Es­pe­cially the last hand­ful of years.

It found it­self in un­fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory when it hosted High­land on Thurs­day evening.

The Ea­gles were ac­tu­ally the hunters as the Bull­dogs held a slim ½-game lead atop the Golden League stand­ings.

Rayshanti McNeal-Price and the rest of her team­mates weren’t quite ready to give up their ti­tle.

McNeal-Price led the game with 17 points and was a per­fect 5-of-5 from the free throw line to help put the Ea­gles back on top of the league stand­ings with a 41-31 vic­tory over High­land at Lan­caster High School.

“I thought both teams played well and this was a very fun game for us. It was very im­por­tant be­cause we wanted to knock them off (top),” McNeal-Price said. “We’re tak­ing one game at a time. We played so much bet­ter than we did in our last game (in a loss against Knight). We have to con­tinue to keep prac­tic­ing hard.”

With the vic­tory, the Ea­gles now hold an 8-1 record in league along with Knight, which gave Lan­caster its first league loss on Tues­day. High­land dropped to 8-2 in league. The Bull­dogs have one more game with the Hawks, and on Feb. 7 at Lan­caster, the Ea­gles and Knight meet in the sea­son fi­nale which could de­ter­mine the out­right league cham­pion.

“I thought we played re­ally well in the first half, but we dug our­selves a hole. We tend to be a come­back team. We didn’t play well in the third quar­ter and third quar­ters have been some of our worst quar­ters,” Bull­dogs head coach Jeff Sis­son said. “But I’m proud of the girls. Lan­caster had a game plan and they ex­e­cuted it well. We still have to con­tinue the sea­son and hope­fully we’ll fin­ish strong. We can def­i­nitely move past this. We learn from our losses and learn from our mis­takes. We beat our­selves tonight.”

Sis­son was on point with his as­sess­ment of his team’s third quar­ter. It was a third quar­ter that High­land would like to for­get. The Bull­dogs were held to only three points in the quar­ter and didn’t score un­til 5½ min­utes when Eriel Banks hit a layup to break the drought. Banks hit a free throw later in the quar­ter to ac­count for all the Bull­dogs’ points.

Lan­caster (13-5) led 20-16 af­ter the first two quar­ters. It scored the first five points of the sec­ond half to grab a 25-16 lead. Vanessa Fletes hit a bucket with less than a minute re­main­ing to give the Ea­gles a 29-19 lead.

“I was im­pressed with our de­fense tonight. I’m so proud of how we came to­gether tonight. This was an over­all great team win,” first-year Lan­caster head coach Jes­sica Mor­ri­son said. “We start off slow, but that’s who we are. I thought we made some good

ad­just­ments. I’m be­yond pleased with this vic­tory. The girls played the en­tire game from start to fin­ish. Now we just have to win out.”

Fletes hit a 3-poin­ter to open the fourth quar­ter and give her team a 32-19 lead, Lan­caster’s largest of the game. How­ever, the Bull­dogs showed re­silience as they scored the next five points, all by Mi’elli Cavins to cut the lead to 32-24.

Things started to heat up later in the quar­ter as Azha Dick­son con­verted the old-fash­ioned 3-point play and the Ea­gles’ lead was cut to only seven, 34-27, with 3½ min­utes re­main­ing in the game. Fol­low­ing a turnover by Lan­caster, a layup by Kim­berly Leon trimmed the lead to 34-29.

The Ea­gles felt a lit­tle more com­fort­able af­ter McNeal-Price con­verted a 3-point play of her own af­ter be­ing fouled to ex­tend the lead to 37-29.

A block, re­bound and coast-to-coast layup by Brook­lyn Curry in­flated the lead back to 10, 3929 with less than three min­utes. The Bull­dogs com­mit­ted four egre­gious turnovers on four con­sec­u­tive pos­ses­sions and they couldn’t re­spond.

“We did re­ally (well), but we just fell short. I think we were a lit­tle ner­vous out there. This game was de­ter­mi­na­tion for first place and we win as a team and we lose as a team,” said Banks. “We just have to go back in the gym and work on cer­tain things. We knew com­ing in that this game was go­ing to be a bat­tle and it could go ei­ther way. We’ll just fin­ish the rest of the sea­son and see what hap­pens.”

Mea Madi­son had 10 points for the Ea­gles and Dick­son fin­ished with nine.

JOHN SAN­DERS/Val­ley Press Sports Cor­re­spon­dent LOOSE BALL — Lan­caster ju­nior Rayshanti McNeal-Price (25) goes af­ter the ball against a High­land player dur­ing a Golden League game on Thurs­day at Lan­caster High School. Lan­caster won the game 41-31 against High­land.

JOHN SAN­DERS/Val­ley Press Sports Cor­re­spon­dent

JUMPER — A Lan­caster girls bas­ket­ball player takes a shot while de­fended by a High­land player in a Golden League game at Lan­caster High on Thurs­day.

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