Another showdown between city rivals meant another thriller between two of the state’s best.
For the third time this season, the Laney and Josey girls battled in a bout reminiscent of a deep playoff matchup in front of a packed gymnasium. The Lady Wildcats again survived to beat the Lady Eagles 68-62 on Friday night.
Josey gave Laney everything the defending state champions could handle in two previous matchups between a December tournament game and a region contest Jan. 13, which went to Laney by seven despite a furious Josey rally.
The Lady Eagles again fought to the end, this time exchanging leads and reaching ties throughout a wild third quarter before the Lady Wildcats used free throws to seal the victory and stay undefeated. Laney moved to 25-0, including 13-0 in Region 4-AA, while Josey fell to 21-3, 11-2. All three of its losses have been to Laney.
“I think it’s good for us to see what we’re made of,” Laney coach Otis Smart said. “We can’t go to the next level if we can’t deal with a game like we had tonight. We’ve done it before. Every time we’ve played Josey, it’s been tough and we came out on top. I’d like to congratulate the Josey coaches. They’re doing a great job.”
De’Sha Benjamin led Laney with 23 points, while Jhessyka Williams chipped in 19 and Jaiden Hamilton added 13. The Lady Wildcats picked up 20 points off free throws compared to the Lady Eagles’ 10.
Tykedra Rolland scored a game-high 26 points for Josey while going head-to-head with Benjamin.
“I think going into the season a lot of people didn’t think we could even compete, so proving that to ourselves first off was important,” Josey coach Jawan Bailey said. “I think we play just as hard and we have the skill set to compete with them on a nightly basis. Our locker room is not surprised.”
The two teams played to a close first half with Laney leading 28-27.
Josey opened the second half with the first five points to take the lead, but Laney responded multiple times until a short run gave the Lady Wildcats an advantage. They outscored Josey 21-17 in a wild third for a 49-44 lead entering the fourth.
Taya Newsome hit a 3-pointer for a 57-50 Laney lead and completed a three-point play a minute later to stay ahead by six. Josey got as close as three in the final minute on a Deajah Houck layup, but Laney sealed the win on free throws.