Richland Northeast girls basketball coach Jabari Deas knew what was at stake when the fourth-ranked Cavaliers had to face league leader and No. 2 Westwood to begin the second half of Region 3-4A play. If RNE wanted any chance at a region title, the Cavaliers couldn’t afford to fall two games behind with four to play.
Thanks to the play of Dashia Jackson and some late heroics from Kayla Brown in regulation, Richland Northeast forced a tie atop the region with a 62-59 overtime victory Friday night.
”To come in here in a tough place (against) a very strong, talented program, and to come here to gut out a victory says a lot about these young ladies,” Deas said. “We didn’t bend, we didn’t break. We held true to who we are, which is a defensive team that can score.”
Brown is one of the main reasons the Cavaliers (15-2, 5-1) had a chance to avenge an earlier 4-point loss to Westwood. The junior scored only five points but her 3-pointer from the corner banked in at the end of regulation to force the extra period.
“Brown has been shooting the ball tremendously for us,” Deas said. “She’s our sixth starter, so to speak. She’s not afraid of the big moment. She’s hit big shots for us all year, and tonight was her just coming through again.”
Once it got to overtime, Jackson continued her torrid night to help seal the win. She opened the OT with a basket, and the Cavaliers took the lead for good on a free throw by Cortazia Windley with 1:54 remaining. Jackson then scored a layup and a jumper from the lane to cap her 25-point, six steal effort.
Jackson’s last basket with 43 seconds left gave the Cavaliers a 60-57 lead. Taylor Britt sealed it when she made 2-of-4 free throws in the final 23 seconds while Westwood managed only two free throws in its final three possessions.
Deas thought the play of his senior guard was the difference.
“Dashia Jackson is a dog that doesn’t back down from anybody when it comes to basketball,” Deas said.
Westwood (17-2, 5-1) coach Gregory Bauldrick thought the Redhawks had an opportunity to seal the win in regulation. They led by as many as six points, the biggest by either team, in the fourth quarter but missed 3-of-6 free throws in the final 29 seconds to give Brown a chance to tie it. Westwood finished 19-of-27 from the foul line.
“Any time you leave opportunities on the floor, you provide opportunities for the other team, and they took advantage of it,” Bauldrick said.
It was duel between good friends and former AAU teammates Jackson and Unique Drake of Westwood for most of regulation. Jackson had 25 points, and Drake scored a game-high 31. She scored 24 of her points in the second half and overtime, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the efforts of the Cavaliers.
RNE also received 11 points from Windley and 10 from Britt.
“We really wanted this win. We really wanted to beat them,” Jackson said. “We’re trying to win the region. Since we got this win tonight, it proves Westwood can be beat.”
RNE – Dashia Jackson 25, Cortazia Windley 11, Taylor Britt 10, Godfrey 9, Brown 5, Wright 2. W – Unique Drake 31, Leveretter 9, Scott 8, Belton 6, Ethredge 5.
Westwood 40, Richland Northeast 31
RNE – Brown 8, Boyd 8, Montgomery 6, Jackson 3, Robinson 2, Vereen 2, Green 2. W – Russell Jones Jr. 12, Kendall Wormack 10, Huff 9, Green 6, Lewis 3.