They walked out of the gym in file, getting high fives and cheers from fans. The players wore smiles too, but if any team knows it’s not time to celebrate much, it’s this Laney squad.
For the fifth year in a row, the Laney girls basketball team advanced to state semifinals. This year, the Lady Wildcats got to the Class AA semifinals by beating Pelham, 59-40, on Tuesday night at Laney.
Now the challenge is to win in the semis, as Laney has fallen a game short of the final each of the past four years.
“It’s really good, but I want to go past the final four,” senior Khadijiah Cave said. “I want to win the whole thing.”
Laney got the chance by slowly constricting Pelham, by building its lead in each quarter. The Lady Wildcats outscored the Lady Hornets in each period, with the 18-8 second quarter putting the lead in double digits for the rest of the game. It was 32-19 Laney at the half.
In the second quarter, Wynetta Wright came in and helped slow down Pelham’s Briunna Freeman, who had a game-best 20 points in the game but just two points in the second period.
On offense, Cave and Simone Smith both put in two baskets apiece in the quarter, with Smith reaching 12 points by halftime.
With Pelham rightly focusing its defense on those two post players, especially on Cave, Laney got a big push from Natarea Tanksley, who drilled an open shot just inside the 3-point line.
In the second half, Freeman did her best to bring the team closer by relentlessly attacking, but Laney always had an answer, whether it was a Cave hook shot or a Destiny Brewton and-1 score.
Thanks to those third-quarter points, Laney didn’t need or want to do much offensively in the final eight minutes. Instead, even with Brewton and Aliyah Collier fouling out, the Lady Wild-
cats patiently passed the ball around or waited for a defender to step closer. By taking away important seconds and standing tall on defense, Laney wasn’t threatened in the second half.
“A lot of good things have been happening to us this year,” Lady Wildcats coach Otis Smart said. “We have good personnel, and I think we can make a run at it.”