Whale Branch girls power past C.E. Murray into third round of basketball playoffs

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High School Basketball

Whale Branch girls power past C.E. Murray into third round of basketball playoffs

Published Friday, February 15, 2013   |  583 Words  |  

S'Nitra Mack and her Whale Branch Early College High School teammates filled their gymnasium with the sound of practice more than two hours before tipoff Thursday.

The post players worked together. Drop-step, layup. Drop-step, layup. Shots from the elbow, shots from the baseline. Free throws.

The Warriors worked, knowing a win against C.E. Murray in the second round of the Class 2-A playoffs wouldn't come as easy as their first-round victory. The serious-minded approach was the result of a second-round exit in 2012.

Whale Branch handled the War Eagles, winning 74-59 to advance to the Lower State semifinals. The Warriors will host Hemingway on Monday, a chance to avenge a loss to the Tigers in the 2012 playoffs.

In their third season, this is as far as the Whale Branch girls have advanced.

"We just got the mindset nobody deserves to be on the court with us," said Mack, who finished with 26 points. "We should run every team -- no ifs, ands and buts."

C.E. Murray guard Naomi Moore forced the Warriors to work for the next round. She led all scorers with 28 points, including 10 during a furious fourth-quarter rally. The War Eagles were down 25 during the final eight minutes and cut the lead to 11 with 1:13 remaining.

But that was Moore's second wind. She had been limited during the second and third quarter after the Warriors used a box-and-one defense, shadowing Moore with a guard while the other four players played zone. With Moore tired, the Whale Branch lead grew to more than 20 during the third quarter.

And when Moore went off, it wasn't for lack of attention from Warriors defenders.

"She was shooting from NBA range," Mack said. "We did a good job keeping her out of the middle, keeping her out of the paint. She can jack them all night, as long as we get the rebound when she misses, we good."

Whale Branch started in a 3-2 zone. Moore scored 11 during the first quarter, including two 3-pointers. A Warriors defender harassed her the rest of the night.

C.E. Murray coach Darren Mazyck said other opponents have tried similar tactics to stop Moore, without much success. She averaged 22 points entering the playoffs and scored 32 during a first-round win.

"She knows how to get the ball," Mazyck said. "We can get the ball to her any place on the court. She can score."

The Warriors countered with all-state guard Kemoni Jenkins, who finished with 19 points and five assists. Whale Branch wanted the ball in the post first, and Mack converted with a variety of moves in the paint and midrange jumpers. She pulled down 11 rebounds to complete the double-double.

Freshman Jonae Riley added eight points and nine rebounds down low.

"That's the best we've played in a while," Whale Branch coach Wilbert Bryant said. "A complete game."

Whale Branch 74, C.E. Murray 59

C.E. Murray (12-11)-- Naomi Moore 28, Miya Johnson 12, Lasabra Wilson 7, Whitt Montgomery 7, Mecca Murphy 4, Youri Shaw 1.

Whale Branch (20-3)-- S'Nitra Mack 26, Kemoni Jenkins 19, Jonae Riley 8, Kenyada Moultrie 7, Sharrin Reed 6, Cheyenne Rogers 4, Ruth Thompson 2.