Hillcrest Punches Ticket to the Final Four
In the ASHAA Regional Final, the Hillcrest Lady Patriots defeated the Pelham Panthers 57-45. Hillcrest was led by Blakeley Nixon, who had a game-high 20 points, and Nyeishia Davis, who finished with 17 points and was voted All-Tournament MVP. The Lady Patriots reach the State Semifinals, extending its winning streak to 19 games.
Hillcrest shot 39.6% from the floor and made six 3-pointers. The Patriots dominated this game from start to finish. They could get to the basket easily, got open baskets from the outside, and their defense was terrific, causing 13 turnovers and four blocks.
Even though the score was tied at the half, Hillcrest seemed to be in charge. It was only a matter of time before they took off, and the Patriots did just that as the third quarter got underway. They scored 22 points in the period while only allowing the Panthers to score eight.
“We settled a lot in the first half with some threes,” Patriots head coach Nick Browder said. “Weren’t bad shots, just early shots in the possession. At halftime, we just talked about not settling, getting two or three paint touches then shooting that next shot to get the defense moving.”
Browder has stated multiple times that his team's defense has been the most critical aspect of their success. He discussed how the game plan was to eliminate Pelham's strongest players. Although he was aware that the squad could not keep the ball out of their hands, he wanted his team to make those players earn each basket.
The Patriots turned the ball over ten times in the game, and Browder told me before the game that his team needed to be able to protect the ball. Despite having double-digit turnovers, he was pleased with how his squad handled Pelham's pressure defense.
“We’ve been around the 15-turnover mark,” Browder said. “In my mind, if we can keep it under 20 with our ability to defend, I believe we have a chance to win. They [Pelham] are a pressure team so I was pretty happy with the way we took care of the ball. I think late we had some turnovers and took our foot off the gas pedal a little bit but we just got to correct those in-game mistakes and try to get better.”
Hillcrest had two players in double figures. Nixon and Davis had a lot of success scoring the ball, but they've had a lot of success all year on offense. This club has a lot more players that can put the ball in the hoop besides those two.
“Those two have been a big part of our program,” Browder said. “There’s one of five that can be our leading scorer any night. I think that’s what makes it special and they do not care which one it is. So tonight it just happen to be Blakeley [Nixon]. Nyeisha [Davis] made some shots, Trinity Braggs made some shots and they buckled down and defend. I feel like we have some good guards that really control the tempo, value our possession, and we usually don’t take any bad shots a lot of times.”
Following an emotional triumph, the Lady Patriots will have a few days to prepare for the Final Four, where they want to continue their winning ways all the way to the championship on Friday. Hillcrest will face the Huffman Vikings at the BJCC Convention Center in Birmingham on Wednesday, March 1 at 12:00 p.m.