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Lady Barons get out shot in SSAC title game, finish 2nd again
For the second straight year, the Brewton-Parker College Lady Barons walked out of Berry College’s Ford Gym with the Southern States Athletic Conference tournament runner-up plaque, once again after watching their title hopes fade with an offensive attack that merely fired blanks when the Lady Barons needed it the most.
Second-seeded Brewton-Parker led fourth-seeded and tournament host Berry by seven midway through the second half but scored just five points the rest of the way and none in the final 4:51, and could only watch Berry forward Lauren Phillips and guard Mallory Ranfos lead the Lady Vikings’ final 13-0 run and Berry to the SSAC title with a 56-48 win.
With the win, No. 20 ranked Berry gained the conference's automatic bid to the NAIA Division I National Championship March 15-21 in Jackson, Tenn., although SSAC regular-season champion and No. 7 ranked Lee University (Tenn.) is also qualified.
The 16th-ranked Lady Barons look to make the 32-team field as one of its 16 at-large selections, and the bracket will be announced Wednesday.
“We fought our hearts out for this game and just came up short,” Brewton-Parker head coach Sheila Simmons said. “We’ll go out to the national tournament and hopefully do a lot better.”
The Lady Barons (25-8) built a 22-14 lead after 14 minutes in a game that was unfolding as an offensive struggle anyway, with both teams shooting around 36 percent from the floor for the first half, and Brewton-Parker led 29-24 at halftime after forcing 18 Berry turnovers.
The defensive pressure kept coming and the Lady Barons forced 32 Berry turnovers for the game and, despite shooting just 13.9 percent from the floor in the second half, they managed to overcome one lead loss early in the half to go ahead 48-43 with 4:51 left in the contest.
But the Lady Barons missed on their final 10 shot attempts, while Berry (24-8) rode its home-crowd advantage to forge a tie just 61 seconds later, and Ranfos scored seven of the Lady Vikings’ final 13 points to lift her to 12 points and overcome 10 personal turnovers.
“At halftime we talked about sustaining our lead, playing poised, not letting the crowd and the officiating get to us,” Simmons said. “We just had a letdown on the offensive end in the second half. I felt we got bumped on some of our shots and the kids got frustrated, but what it all boils down to is you have to put the ball in the hole whether there’s contact or not. We couldn’t score and that was the difference in the ball game.”
Phillips, a 6-foot-2 junior from Marietta, had four points in the final run, giving her 14 along with 10 rebounds and the tournament Most Valuable Player award.
Senior forward Deana Duncan of Dallas, Ga., had game-highs of 18 points and 12 rebounds and the go-ahead free throws with 1:58 remaining to garner All-Tournament honors. Berry had a 51-27 rebounding average for the afternoon.
“They’re a physical ball club, had the hometown crowd behind them and played the game keeping it as close as possible and sustaining, and they just shot a better percentage (41.0) than we did (23.4).”
Junior guard-forward Shawnique Johnson of Nassau, Bahamas, led the Lady Barons with 12 points and seven rebounds off the bench, while senior guard-forward Tamika Drinks-Holloway of Mount Vernon added 10 points and four steals. Johnson and Drinks-Holloway were Brewton-Parker’s All-Tournament team representatives.