Top-seeded Jennings slips past Iota
By Chris Quebedeaux
JENNINGS – The Iota Lady Bulldogs gave top-ranked Jennings all it could handle and then some Monday in the second round of the Class AAA playoffs.
But in the end, Jennings proved itself worthy of being a top seed, overcoming a nine-point second-half deficit to slip away with a slim 56-53 victory.
The loss ended Iota’s 2008-09 season and left the Lady Bulldogs 24-13 for the year. Jennings improved to 33-3 and will play host to Madison Thursday for the right to advance to the Top 28 tournament in Monroe.
“I’m very proud of my kids,” said Iota coach Stan Baggett after the contest. “They gave it all they had tonight. I don’t think we had anything left in the tank when the final horn sounded.”
For Jennings, it was their third victory over Iota this season and the second in which they had to rally from at least nine points down.
“We knew that this was going to be a tough one,” said Jennings coach Julie Mayeaux. “You can’t play a quality ballclub like Iota and expect anything less. We played them a week ago.
“We didn’t shoot the ball real well tonight but, we did what we’ve been doing all year - finding a way to win and keeping ourselves in position to win.”
Jayln Johnson keep Jennings in contention, especially in the second half. The freshman guard poured in nine points in the final three and a half minutes of the third quarter, cutting Iota’s lead from nine to one at 39-38. She hit a 3-point bank shot from the top of the key with 44 seconds left and then dropped in two free throws before the horn.
“When she (Jayln) hit that 3-pointer off the glass, I knew it was going to be tough,” said Baggett. “That was a big shot and it kind of buckled our knees.”
The lead switched hands several times throughout the fourth quarter before Shalyn Riley put Jennings up 54-51 on a layup and a free throw with just over a minute to go. Katelyn Regan followed up with a driving layup to cut the lead to one (54-53).
Iota had one last chance, trailing 55-53 with 18 seconds remaining, but Regan’s shot in the lane rimmed out with two seconds left.
Johnson iced the game with one free throw.
Johnson and Riley combined for 13 fourth-quarter points to lead Jennings’ rally. Riley scored seven of her 11 points in the final eight minutes after being benched most of the contest due to foul trouble.
“I’m slim in the post, but Shalyn is a presence in there,” said Mayeaux. “She’s strong and she can go strong to the basket and get on the boards. It helps when she’s on the floor and not on the bench.”
Johnson led all scorers with 24 points.
“Jayln is special,” said Mayeaux. “And I can’t take any credit for that. She’s got a natural ability. She has a natural ability to see the floor and find people. She doesn’t like to score a lot but tonight she had to.”
Iota aided Jennings’ remarkable comeback with 19 turnovers and six missed shots under the goal.
“We missed some shots and to beat a team like this, you have to have a perfect game,” said Baggett. “We didn’t quite have a perfect game. It was close, but not quite perfect. I told them that if we had 15 or less turnovers we would win the game. We had 19. We almost pulled off the miracle, it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Jade LeJeune did most of Iota’s damage on the inside, totaling 16 points to go along with 11 rebounds. Regan and Allison Baggett were the only other Lady Dogs in double figures with 13 and 11 points respectively.
Also scoring for Iota were Katie Latiola with eight points, including two long-range 3-pointers, Anna Lege with three and Dominique Thomas with two.