An uncharacteristic 27 turnovers compounded with a poor shooting night in the Class 4A semifinals gave way to No. 3 Neville’s elimination from the state tournament.
The Lady Tigers 18-game win streak was snapped in a 45-38 loss to Huntington Wednesday evening. Following the game, Neville head coach Lorrie Guimbellot was proud of her girls, who won 92 ballgames over the course of their career. She was also saddened to see players like Dakayla Howard, Jajuana "JoJo" Briggs and Mia Hardin's journey end.
“You’re going to make me cry thinking about ‘em,” Guimbellot said. “They mean a lot. They’ve had such a great four years together. They’re bond is so unique to the groups we’ve had in the past. They put in so much hard work. I’m sad they didn’t get to have that state championship game. It hurts me deep down inside knowing they won’t be back for any more chances. You just hope they go on in life and take something from basketball that will help them.”
The (22-3) Lady Tigers had a tough time dealing with (26-2) Huntington’s full court press in the opening minutes, but the Lady Tigers defense certainly kept Neville in a back-and-forth affair. The slow-paced style favored a Lady Tigers team that has allowed just 26.5 points per game this postseason in the early goings. Neville rattled off a 5-0 run to take a 7-4 lead, and the Lady Tigers led 9-8 after the first quarter.
The pace quickened in the second quarter, though, and Huntington took advantage of the Lady Tigers’ miscues.
“We didn’t want to run with them because that’s what they want to do,” Guimbellot said. “Defense, we held them to 45 points, but we just couldn’t get more points than them. That’s what it all boils down to. We were like 6-of-17 from the free throw line too. It’s those little things.”
Neville’s offense stagnated in the second quarter. Neville could muster just four points over the next five-plus minutes, and Huntington took a 24-14 lead into the half.
Out of the half, Neville went to the post with purpose. Hardin completed an and-one, and the defense on the other end created some transition buckets to reduce the lead to six.
Huntington answered with a 10-0 run before heading into the final quarter with a 41-27 edge.
Going into the fourth, Huntington’s Taylor Bell had nine points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and six steals.
But the Lady Tigers weren’t done. Neville went on an 11-4 run in the quarter, and actually cut the deficit to single digits before the Lady Raiders fended off a late rally by the Lady Tigers to advance to the Class 4A State Championship Game.
Neville's Class of 2021 won 75% of their ballgames (92-30) in their careers as girls basketball players.
Neville's senior class made it to the state finals as freshmen, reached the quarterfinals as sophomores and juniors and ended their careers in the semifinals as seniors. Guimbellot praised her team's focus on the court and in the classroom, as the lowest GPA among this senior class was 3.45.