Lady Rockets’ late comeback falls short

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After controlling the first quarter by outscoring Northern Guilford 20-14, the Person Lady Rockets were outscored 45-31 in the final three quarters, as they ultimately lost to the Nighthawks, 59-51.

Coming off a tough loss to Western Alamance four days prior, Person (8-4, 2-2) was looking to right the ship. Starting out, it looked like the Lady Rockets were going to control the game, as they built an 8-0 lead in the first 4:02 behind a two-pointer from Madison Dunkley and six points from Kelcey Mangum. Person was able to take two nine-point leads later in the quarter, as Aaliyah Jones made the score 18-9 with 1:15 remaining in the quarter, and Nydriya Marner made it 20-11 with 27 seconds remaining. The Lady Rockets took a 20-14 lead into the second quarter behind strong free-throw shooting, good defense, and contributions from players across the board.

“I think because of what we do preparation-wise coming into every game, I feel confident that we’re able to come into every game and start fast,” said Person head coach Jay Carmichael.

Mangum, the sophomore guard, was one Rocket who was a big reason that Person built their early lead.

“She just gives us a fast start,” said Carmichael. “She’s a little bulldog. Hopefully we can continue doing that.”

The second quarter was the polar opposite, as the Lady Rockets saw their six-point lead disappear after being outscored 22-3. Nydriya Marner scored Person’s lone three points in the quarter from the charity stripe. The difference-maker in this quarter was free-throw shooting, as Marner made her three attempts out of the Lady Rockets’ seven, and Northern (9-4, 3-1) hit all 13 of theirs. Person also turned the ball over a lot more as a result of the Nighthawks’ defense.

“The second quarter seems to be a quarter we’re having trouble with,” said Carmichael. “In that second quarter, we just had some things go the other way, whether it be a loose ball or somebody making a mistake. Next thing you know, things get out of control.”

The Lady Rockets utilized their press, a defensive set that usually frustrates the opposition, in the first half. The Nighthawks had no problem solving the Person defense as the game got closer to halftime.

“We were pressing, and it was working early, then they started chopping up our press,” said Carmichael. “We switched to man to switch things up, and that gave us a little spark. Things then unraveled from that.”

While they didn’t quite weather the storm in the third period, the Lady Rockets prevented Northern from going on another scoring outburst, as they limited the Nighthawks to only eight points behind another strong defensive performance. Northern’s defense was equally as strong, limiting the Lady Rockets to just eight points of their own. Marner had six of her team-leading 19 points in the third quarter, while Alexzia Thompson contributed two points.

In the fourth quarter, Person started to turn on the jets. Marner hit two free throws only 29 seconds into the quarter to start a 14-2 run that closed the deficit to 55-45. Kayleigh Clarke scored all 10 of her points in this quarter, Aaliyah Jones had a bucket, and Thompson recorded three of her nine points on the night.

“We made a valiant comeback, especially in the fourth quarter,” said Carmichael. “We didn’t give up. We always believe that we’re never out of a game, and we keep that mentality.”

While the Lady Rockets closed the deficit to 56-51 on a Clarke three-pointer with 38.8 seconds remaining, but that was as close as they would get.

Even though Person came out on the wrong side of this game, there was one thing the Lady Rockets did improve on.

“We shot free throws much better,” said Carmichael. “It’s all about the consistency we talked about. We know we can do it, we just will be better when we do it every game. We practice free throws every day, and it’s gradually improved.” Person finished the game 18-26 at the charity stripe after going 9-21 in their previous game and 19-31 in the Gazette-Virginian tournament final.

Tuesday was only the first game back from winter break for Person. As the Lady Rockets get back into a consistent rhythm of practicing, Carmichael hopes it will turn into better results on the court.

“We had a quick turnaround because we weren’t able to practice Saturday, just one day after losing to Western. Having practices to put in some work and get ready is really going to help us. We’ll continue to work on the things that we don’t do as well and the mistakes that we’re making. Losing two games in a row is not good, and I’m hoping that, all by itself, can motivate us to make sure that we’re ready for this game (McMichael) Friday night. We need it.”

Marner’s 19 points led Person in scoring on the night. Clarke recorded 10, as she was the only other Rocket to score in double-digits. Thompson dropped nine, Jones contributed seven, Mangum registered six, and Dunkley had a first-quarter bucket to round out the scoring.

The Lady Rockets’ game last night against McMichael was not over before press time for this edition.

Mangum

Mangum

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