Sterlington 73, Madison 56

Watching their lead shrink from 16 to six over the final 80 seconds of the third quarter, it was a perfect opportunity for the Sterlington Lady Panthers to panic. Instead, they regrouped. As a result, the Lady Panthers (16-9, 4-0) now sit alone atop the District 2-3A standings following Friday night's 73-56 victory over Madison.

"We got in foul trouble, and had to back out of our press, and that hurt us," Sterlington coach Caroline Oliphant said. "We moved Kaela (Mullins) out on 42 (Adriana Fountain), which took away from our rebounding. When they went man-to-man press on us we started reverting back to our old ways, throwing the ball out of bounds and turning it over. They started getting layups because we weren't doing what we were supposed to do."

Michaela Waters, Ashleigh Davis and Jayla Stewart finished with four fouls and sat out portions of the contest.

In a game which saw 44 fouls called, the visiting Lady Jaguars were in even worse shape than the Lady Panthers. Madison entered the fourth quarter down three players as KaTrina Anderson and Alexis Mason both fouled out and Rayliah McDonald left the game after banging her head on the floor while going for a loose ball — all in the third period.

Sterlington, which never trailed, finally landed the knockout blow early in the fourth quarter.

Inbounding the ball to start the new frame, the Lady Jags missed a 3-pointer with a chance to close within three.

Scoring on their first five possessions of the quarter, the Lady Panthers dashed off nine unanswered points.

Bri Logan found McKinzie Gray for an easy deuce on an inbounds play from underneath the basket to trigger the run. Mullins then dished to Waters on a nicely-executed two-on-break, stretching the margin to 55-45.

Mullins converted both ends of a double bonus and Waters chased down a long rebound and finished on the break before sinking one-of-two free throws to make it 60-45 with 6:03 remaining.

MarKayla Cooper's transition layup ended the Madison drought on its ninth possession of the quarter.

Mullins answered with a pair of free throws on the Lady Panthers' next offensive trip before A'laysha Johnson's 3-pointer closed the gap to 62-50 with 4:12 to play.

Jayme Broadway hit two free throws on the Lady Panthers' next possession.

After an unforced turnover on Madison's next sequence, Stewart's rebound bucket pushed the margin to 66-50 with 3:44 remaining.

Johnson then made the front end of a two-shot foul, but the Lady Jaguars missed a 3 on their next sequence with a chance to climb within 12. Davis' transition basket and Mullins' turn-around eight-footer from the lane moved the difference to 70-51 with time winding toward the two minute mark.

Sterlington's lead peaked at 20, 73-53, inside the final minute.

A pattern which would hold up for most of the game was established early on. Sterlington would build a sizable lead, and the Lady Jaguars would battle their way back within striking distance.

With Waters scoring the game's first six points, the Lady Panthers jumped in front, 8-2. Waters finished the quarter with 10 points as Sterlington's advantage swelled to 16-6.

Sterlington went up by as many as 17, 31-14, in the second stanza before Johnson's rebound bucket reduced the deficit to 31-21. Waters' transition layup closed out the first half scoring with the Lady Panthers leading 33-21.

Broadway's layup gave the Lady Panthers their biggest lead of the third quarter at 51-35.

Madison countered with a 10-0 run.

Cooper started the flurry with a 3-pointer and a breakaway on back-to-back possessions, Fountain made two free throws, Johnson scored on the break and Fountain made the front end of a double bonus with 0.4 seconds on the clock to bring the Lady Jags within 51-45 going into fourth quarter.

Waters scored 15 of her 22 points in the first half to top the Lady Panthers' scoring column, while collecting 11 rebounds to complete the double double. Mullins capped a splendid all-around effort with a 10-point fourth quarter on 5-of-6 free throw shooting. Playing all 32 minutes, the senior point guard posted a stat line included 15 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Broadway came through with seven of her 14 points in the fourth quarter and was a perfect 6-of-6 from the line. McKinzie Gray was the Lady Panthers' fourth double figures scorer with 12 points and a team-high 14 rebounds. Davis added seven points, Stewart four and Bri Logan one.

Cooper was high scorer for Madison with 18 — 10 in the third quarter. Fountain poured in 15, Anderson nine, Johnson eight, Kyla Gilbert four and Mason two.

Sterlington wraps up the first half of district play in the Panthers' Den vs. Richwood on Tuesday at 6 p.m.

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BOX SCORE

Madison ............... 6 15 24 11—56

Sterlington .......... 16 17 18 22—73

MADISON (12-8, 3-1) — MarKayla Cooper 18, Adriana Fountain 15, KaTrina Anderson 9, Alaysha Johnson 8, Kyla Gilbert 4, Alexis Mason 2.

STERLINGTON (16-9, 4-0) — Michaela Waters 22, Kaela Mullins 15, Jayme Broadway 14, McKinzie Gray 12, Ashleigh Davis 5, Jayla Stewart 4, Bri Logan 1.

Three-point goals — Madison 4 (Anderson 2, Cooper 1, Johnson 1), Sterlington 1 (Davis). Total fouls — Madison 24, Sterlington 20. Free throw shooting — Madison 16-24, Sterlington 15-29. Fouled out — Anderson, Mason. Technicals — none.