TROY – Macy Thurston gave it her best Monday night, yet it wasn’t enough for the Jersey High girls’ basketball team.
The Panthers bowed to host Triad, 44-35, in the opening game of the Knights’ Class 3A Regional. Jersey, finishing with seven successive defeats, closed at 10-16.
Triad, also 10-16, faces top-seeded Civic Memorial at 6 Tuesday night. The Eagles are 27-2. Second-seeded Highland tangles with Breese Mater Dei at 8 Tuesday. The winners advance to the championship game at 7 p.m. Friday.
Thurston, a 5-foot-9 forward playing her final game, scored 16 points. And she tossed in five consecutive points to help the Panthers close to within 35-32 with 3:41 remaining. However, Triad refused to relinquish the lead and the Knights defeated the Panthers for the second time in three games this season.
“Macy played hard and gave us what we needed from her,” first-year Jersey coach Stephanie Harris. “But we needed to get the ball in to her on the post more than we did.”
All figured, Thurston connected on 6 of 10 shots, including a trey. She took only four shots the second half and made three of them.
“I thought Abby Burroughs did a nice job on Thurston,” Triad coach Josh Hunt said. “We also controlled the glass. I don’t think they (Panthers) had an offensive rebound the first half.”
Harris said the Panthers needed a better overall effort if they were going to prevail against Triad. The Knights won their third consecutive game for the first time since 2011.
“We had too many turnovers and we weren’t executing our offense,” she said. “Our intensity also has to get better across the board.”
Jersey made 14 of 39 shots and was hampered by 19 turnovers. The Panthers made 5 of 8 foul shots, while the Knights converted 18 of 22 free throws. Triad made 11 of 12 foul shots in the fourth quarter to expand its lead.
Freshman guard Sam Bassler sank 7 of 8 free throws in the final three minutes to spark Triad. She scored eight points. Teammate Sophie Thompson, a 5-10 sophomore, led the way with 17 points. Thompson tabulated 61 points in three games against Jersey this season.
“I’m proud of the girls,” Hunt said. “We could have panicked in the stretch when Jersey made a run at us. But we responded well and our freshmen handled the pressure. Sam really made some clutch free throws.”
The Knights start three sophomores and two freshmen. Thurston is the lone senior for Jersey, so the Panthers' future could be brighter if they improve.
“We are a young team, but so is Triad,” Harris said. Sophomore Lauren Davis (eight points) and junior Lia Roundcount (six points) completed Thurston’s scoring.
Hunt knows the Knights will have a tough test in their semifinal matchup with CM, which shared the Mississippi Valley Conference championship with Highland. The Eagles have beaten the Knights twice this season.
“We need to handle the pressure that they (Eagles) put on us,” Hunt said. “But we have nothing to lose and I don’t think our girls will back down.”
TRIAD CLASS 3A REGIONAL
TRIAD 44, JERSEY 35
Triad 11 9 10 14 – 44
Jersey 6 10 6 13 – 35
Triad (10-16) – Woods 5, Thompson 17, Johnson 5, Chigas 3, Burroughs 6, Bassler 8. 2FG-7 3FG-4 FT-18 PF-14
Jersey (10-16) – Macy Thurston 16, Roundcount 6, Crawford 3, Davis 8, Mack. Thurston 2. 2FG-12 3FG-2 FT-5 PF-17