Big third quarter propels Lady Wildcats


Mykala Jones got near the 3-point line, fired a shot, and saw it sink in as she kept her shooting hand in position for a few more seconds after the shot.


Jones hit a 3-pointer to both open and close Laney's scoring outburst in the third quarter as the Lady Wildcats beat Aiken, 70-58, on Wednesday night in the girls championship game of the 11th annual Holiday Round Ball Classic.

Jones scored 14 of her game-high 26 points in the third quarter as Laney turned a one-point halftime deficit into a 14-point advantage by the end of the period by scoring 27 points. The strong offensive output almost matched the Lady Wildcats' total from the previous two quarters of 29.

"I knew we started off slow, but I knew I had to step up," Jones said.

It was a sudden change for Aiken, which never trailed in the first half and even had a three-point lead early in the third quarter as it found success on fast-break opportunities -- Erin Gilmore in particular.

The sophomore scored on three consecutive layups in the opening quarter, as she ran past the Lady Wildcats for quick scores.

Gilmore finished with 12 points in the first half as the Lady Hornets went up 17-11 after one. But it could have been a bigger lead, as Aiken missed a couple of shots close despite great passing into the lane from Ashley Winfield. More close misses near the basket followed in the second half.

"It got away from us a little bit," Aiken coach Aubrey Pompey said.

Winfield, the Aiken point guard, used her body to create space for the second quarter's first points, as the Lady Hornets opened up their biggest lead of the game at 19-11. She repeated the showing later with a strong drive to give Aiken another eight-point cushion.

However, Laney clawed back as Dekoya Mack hit two 3-pointers in a row after she missed her first three shots from long range.

The Lady Wildcats also found strength on the boards from Simone Smith, who came off the bench to score eight of her nine first-half points in the second quarter to cut the deficit to one at halftime. Smith dominated the glass at key times and finished with 15 points before fouling out to a big cheer from the crowd with 2.2 seconds to play.

Despite holding Laney to 14 points in the fourth quarter, Aiken couldn't mount a comeback, as the Lady Wildcats used their lead to take time off the clock with long possessions, particularly late.

"It feels good," Jones said about winning the tournament. "We had to work hard for this. We had to fight through this game."