In a game defined by runs, Andrew Jackson had the one that mattered most here Saturday afternoon.
The Lady Volunteers rebounded from a late third-quarter deficit and ended Newberry’s season with strong defense and the broad shoulders of Dareisha Sowell. The senior point guard scored 40 points and keyed Andrew Jackson’s finishing kick in a 62-48 win in the Class 2A Girls’ Upper State final at Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
Andrew Jackson (23-3) advanced to the 2A state championship against Bishop England, while Newberry’s season ended at 18-10. The Lady Vols finished the game on a 29-15 run.
Newberry coach Melissa Mendenhall pointed to foul trouble as a key reason for her team’s end-game struggles, forcing a less aggressive approach to the potent Sowell.
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“We came back and tried to run a box and one, but our girls got in foul trouble, so we had to change our defense,” Mendenhall said. “I feel the box and one helped us get back on tempo a little bit. Once we got in foul trouble we had to step back a little.”
Regardless, Mendenhall was proud of her team’s accomplishments, given that the Bulldogs have one senior – all-state point guard Arnasia Boyd – and start an eighth-grader, Kelsey Felks.
“We accomplished everything we set out to accomplish,” Mendenhall said. “Our goal was to make it to the Upper State and we made it to the Upper State, so I’m very proud of our girls for doing that.”
Newberry led the back-and-forth game 33-28 with three minutes left in the third quarter, but went nearly eight minutes without a made field goal. By that time, the Lady Vols had built a seven-point lead and momentum was at the other end.
The Bulldogs recovered from Andrew Jackson’s 13-0 run to end the first quarter with a 10-0 run of their own, ending the first half in a 20-20 tie. But when foul trouble cropped up late in the third quarter, the young team lost its rhythm, making only two field goals the rest of the way.
“(Sowell) got on a roll, and I also think officiating had something to do with it down the stretch,” Mendenhall said. “I just give hats off to their point guard. She did an excellent job for them.”