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The Person High School girls’ basketball team suffered its first loss of the season Wednesday night, but it proved a powerful point.
These Rockets can hang with the absolute best teams in the state.
Ragsdale needed a big third-quarter surge to pull away from the pesky Rockets for a 56-41 win in a battle of undefeated teams.
The Tigers (11-0) entered the week ranked seventh in the latest MaxPreps 4A rankings, 12th overall in the state and are fresh off defeating reigning 4A champion Northwest Guilford in the championship game of the HAECO Invitiational.
The smaller Rockets were standing toe-to-toe with Ragsdale until a disatrous close to the third quarter.
Ragsdale led 31-25 at halftime, but saw that advantage sliced to one after a bucket by Person’s Nydriya Marner 1:25 into the third quarter.
Marner was in the middle of a huge offensive performance, but left the game 10 seconds later after she appeared to hit the floor hard. Less than 30 seconds later, her backcourt mate, Jewel Holloway, joined her on the bench after picking up her fourth foul following a turnover.
About a minute later, two more starters left the floor when DaNiya Richardson was whistled for her fourth foul and sophomore forward Aaliyah Jones’ nose was bloodied by an inadvertant elbow from a Ragsdale player when the two were going after a rebound. Person was already playing without starting forward Aaliyah Williams, who missed Wednesday’s game with an illness.
The Tigers pounced against the Rockets’ reserves, making every Person pass an adventure and forcing countless turnovers as they closed the final 6:35 of the third quarter on a 16-2 run.
“In terms of the intensity of the game and the up and down and competitiveness of it, this was everything I imagined and maybe more. I thought we played a heck of a game, start to finish,” Person coach Jay Carmichael said. “That one key piece was that third quarter when we had four key players on the bench and they were pressing us. We had a bunch on the floor who hadn’t played a lot together and before we knew it, we were down 15 points. That was the important part of the game, outside of that, we’re right there with them.”
Holloway was whistled for her third foul a minute into the second half after trying to make a steal in the backcourt just a few seconds following a top-of-the-key 3-pointer that brought the Rockets within one, 31-30.
Carmichael took her out briefly, but re-inserted his starting point guard into the lineup after the Tigers forced a couple of turnovers and the lead was pushed back up to three. Shortly after Holloway returned to the floor, she commited her fourth foul - which proved to be a key momentum-shifter in the game.
Holloway finished with 13 points, while Marner led the Rockets with 17, but th pair spent much of the third quarter on the bench.
“I was playing with the idea of whether to leave (Holloway) on the bench a little bit longer, but I saw the importance of having her in at that part of the game and I was clinging to the hope that she wouldn’t pick up that fourth that quick,” Carmichael said. “She’s our engine. It was just the intensity and how much she wanted to win. I knew that if I didn’t put her in, that we were going to lose it right there.”
Outside of that brutal six-minute stretch, Person played nearly even with a team with legitimate 4A state title aspirations.
The Rockets stayed right with Ragsdale for the entire first half.
The Tigers flirted with pulling away in the late stages of the second quarter after a jumper by Nyah Stallings and a steal and quick layup on the ensuing inbounds pushed their lead to 29-21.
Carmichael called a quick timeout and his team steadied itself heading into halftime.
Holloway took her man off the dribble and hit a floater in the lane on the first possession after the timeout and the Rockets were able to withstand the Tigers’ charge and only trailed by six at the half.
“We played probably the best first half we’ve played all season,” Carmichael said. “We were right there with them and they knew we were right there with them and they came out in the second half and they were amped up because they knew they were going to have to play well or we’d beat them. I was happy with how we came out of the gates. If only we could have matched that in the second half, we’d be just fine.”
Jones chipped in five points for the Rockets while Jakayla Betts, Richardson and Alexzia Thompson all had two points each.
Stallings led a balanced Ragsdale attack with 15 points, including two first-quarter threes.
The Rockets hosted Eastern Alamance in a key early-season Mid-State Conference game Friday. Results were unavailable at press time, but the game story of Friday’s game is available at personcountylife.com.
Person will be back in action Tuesday when it travels to Western Alamance. Game time is set for 6 p.m., following a JV boys game set for 4:30 p.m.
The Warriors headed into Friday’s game against Morehead at 4-4 overall.