PEDRO — After shaking off some early nerves and foul trouble, the Minford Falcons found a way to keep their postseason aspirations alive.
Competing at Rock Hill High School, No. 8 Minford beat No. 9 Portsmouth 48-41 in the Division III Southeast Sectional Semifinals.
The Falcons were charged with nine first-half fouls, which led to 11 free throw attempts by the Trojans before the intermission. Minford coach Scott Cayton attributed his team’s inability to rebound as the cause to their foul problems.
“It was a typical first tournament game,” Cayton said. “It was a little more physical than the regular season. First, it took us a while to adjust. I don’t think we handled the pressure well early. But in the second half, I thought we did a much better job of getting physical on the boards, getting rebounds and second shots. I think that was one of the differences in the game.”
Cayton said his team rebounded more efficiently in the second half, which helped the Falcons avoid the foul problems that plagued them earlier in the contest. He noted that many of the fouls were called on second chance opportunities by Portsmouth who recorded 11 offensive boards throughout the contest.
Offensively, Brooklyn Yeley led the Falcons with 11 points and eight rebounds.
“Brooke has been our second leading rebounder all year,” Cayton said. “From the guard position, that says a lot about her effort and just her basketball IQ to get to where the ball is going to be able to get the rebound. I thought her effort tonight was great. Early in the year, she shot it great but the last few games she hasn’t shot the ball well, but tonight she got her shot back and made a couple of threes for us.”
Yeley and teammate Carrie Wynn have carried Minford offensively all season. However, due to an ankle injury, Wynn was forced to miss her second-straight game.
Cayton knows his squad needs Wynn to get healthy quickly if the Falcons have loftier aspirations than one postseason tournament victory. Her status for Saturday is still not been determined.
“(Wynn) and (Yeley) are both averaging 10 points a game,” Cayton said. “But she also handles the ball a lot for us. I think we missed her ball handling more than we did her scoring.
” … We are hoping for the best. She’s a senior, started three years for us and come tournament time, those are the people you’d like to have out there.”
To help fill the scoring role in Wynn’s absence, freshman Abby Grasso came off the bench and contributed nine points, including one 3-point field goal.
Grasso was efficient from the floor, hitting 57 percent of her shots.
“Grasso is only a freshman but she’s really the only person I’ve got with some length,” Cayton said. “She just comes in and makes things happen. She plays with no fear and that’s what you like out of a freshman.”
On the other side, Portsmouth had opportunities to take a commanding lead throughout the first half. Despite having attempting 11 shots from the charity stripe, the Trojans only managed to hit six free throws. When the opening 16 minutes concluded, the scoreboard was even at 23 apiece.
Portsmouth finished the game at 50 percent from the foul line. In any close basketball game, converting free throws can be the difference between a win or loss. Trojans coach Kristen Bradshaw is well aware of that fact.
“One of our big things is foul shots, it has been all year,” Bradshaw said. “One game we will go 19-for-20, then the next game we would shoot 50 percent. We work on them every single day but I think the adrenaline or something takes over in the game, but that was a big factor for us. We are usually 70 or 72 percent, but tonight it killed us … “
Despite the free thow woes, Peighton Williams had a strong performance for the Trojans as she led Portsmouth with 18 while Wesleigh Jackson contributed 12 points, including four treys for the Trojans. Jackson shot 44 percent from behind the arc.
“Wesleigh is just a great shooter,” Bradshaw said. “And Peighton, she’s our go-to and I think she handled the pressure very well. I kept telling her, ‘Peighton, everyone knows they are going to put two people on you, they’re going to put pressure on you.’ We really just tried to slow it down on offense and set stuff up.”
With a victory under their belt, the Falcons will return Saturday to Rock Hill High School in an attempt to upset No. 1 Fairland. Tip off is scheduled for 1 p.m.
Overall, Cayton was pleased with his team’s performance but acknowledges his team must improve in certain areas if they want to pull of the upset.
“We have to take better care of the ball,” Cayton said. “We’ve got to cut down on turnovers against pressure because they are really athletic.
” … We are going to try to make them outside shooters. We are going to try to pack it in and if they make shots, then we will have to come up with a plan ‘B’ and a plan ‘C’, but I think what makes Fairland so good is their pressure. We are going to have to be better passers and play good, fundamental basketball. Take care of the basketball, get a shot every time down the court and we will take our chances.”
Chris Slone can be reached at 353-3101, ext 298, or on Twitter @crslone.
Portsmouth 8 15 5 13 — 41
Minford 12 11 14 11 — 48
Portsmouth — P. Williams 4-9-18, Jackson 4-0-12, Lee 2-0-4, S. Parker 2-0-4, Jenkins 1-0-3. Totals 13-9-41.
Minford — Yeley 5-0-11, Thoroughman 4-1-9, Grasso 4-0-9, Shepard 1-4-6, Conkey 2-1-5, Berry 1-3-5, Fuhrmann 1-0-2, Grose 0-1-1. Totals 18-10-48.
3-Point Goals — Portsmouth 6 (Jackson 4, P. Williams, Jenkins); Minford 2 (Yeley, Grasso).