Briarwood girls’ comeback falls short

Published 10:01 am Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Shelly Proctor and the Briarwood Christian Lady Lions came up short against John Carroll Catholic in overtime in the opening round of the 6A Area 9 tournament. Briarwood finished the season 19-10. (Contributed / Stephen Schumacher)

Shelly Proctor and the Briarwood Christian Lady Lions came up short against John Carroll Catholic in overtime in the opening round of the 6A Area 9 tournament. Briarwood finished the season 19-10. (Contributed / Stephen Schumacher)

By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor

HOMEWOOD – The Briarwood Christian Lady Lions basketball team played John Carroll Catholic twice during the regular season, and twice Briarwood was beaten soundly, by an average margin of 28 points. However, in the first round of the 6A Area 9 tournament, Briarwood gave John Carroll all it could handle, clawing back from an early 15-point deficit to force overtime, but the comeback bid came up short, however, as the Lady Lions fell 65-57.

“This is a team that beat us probably by 25 two times,” Briarwood head coach Jim Brown said after the game. “I thought we had a plan, we executed it pretty well. We got down a little bit in the first half, but we never quit. You’d expect that out of a group of seniors, and I’m real proud of how they finished up.”

Briarwood, fighting for its season, came out of the gate ready to play. The Lady Lions gave up size at almost every position to John Carroll, but kept pace early with the Lady Cavaliers, and were tied after the first quarter, 10-10, behind six first-quarter points from Shelly Proctor.

In the second quarter, however, John Carroll got rolling. The Lady Cavaliers turned up their defensive intensity, pressing Briarwood all over the court, and went on a 15-0 run that encompassed the first six minutes of the second quarter. Not only did Briarwood struggle to get a clean look at the basket, the Lady Lions struggled to get the ball past half court. Finally, Morgan Hutchinson stemmed the bleeding with a bucket off an offensive rebound with less than two minutes to go, at which point the score was 25-12. Briarwood did end the half on an 8-4 run, and went into the break down 11, 29-18.

After the offensively anemic second quarter, Briarwood showed signs of life in the third. This Briarwood team was built around playing up-tempo, transition basketball, and it finally began to see some success in the third quarter. But whenever Briarwood looked to be ready to make a dent in John Carroll’s lead, the Lady Cavaliers always seemed to hit a shot to push the lead back to a comfortable margin, and Briarwood went into the fourth trailing 42-35

John Carroll pulled ahead by 10 early in the quarter off a deep three from Elizabeth Hill, but Briarwood refused to lay down. The Lady Lions clawed back to within five before Roni Richardson hit a three from the volleyball line to push the lead back to eight, which seemed to ice the game in the moment.

But, after a quick Briarwood bucket, Kelsi Hobbs of John Carroll was at the free throw line, up six points with less than two minutes to go, with a chance to truly close out the game. Hobbs missed both free throws, and Briarwood was called for a lane violation, giving Hobbs a third free throw to push the lead to seven, but she missed that too, and Molly McKenzie promptly hit a three from the corner in front of the Briarwood bleachers to close the gap to three at 52-49. A turnover on the ensuing John Carroll possession and a bucket from Proctor made the score 52-51.

After two free throws from John Carroll pushed the lead back to 54-51 with less than 15 seconds to play, Briarwood had one last chance to keep the game, and its season, alive. Ellie Tarrence took the inbounds pass and found McKenzie in the frontcourt near the Briarwood bench. McKenzie located Sophie Muir-Taylor near the baseline, and Muir-Taylor fired a cross-court pass to Tarrence, standing by herself near the top of the key. Tarrence collected the ball, calmly took a step behind the three point line, and nailed the game-tying triple as time expired, tying the game at 54-54 and forcing overtime.

“That was about as big of a shot as she’s ever hit in her career, for sure,” Brown said of the shot hit by her senior point guard.

Unfortunately for Briarwood, John Carroll Catholic’s free-throw woes did not carry over to the overtime period, as the Lady Cavaliers hit 7-of-8 from the line while Briarwood went 1-for-6 from the line in the extra period, and John Carroll advanced with a 65-57 win.

Proctor, McKenzie and Muir-Taylor were named to the All-Area team, and Briarwood finished the season with a 19-10 record.