Tuesday, 12 February 2019 09:01

Lyerly's final-second shot lifts Lady Red Rams to SEMSAC title game showdown at Rockingham

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Ryelan Lyerly (1) jumps into Deondra Morrison's arms after the final buzzer sounded during Monday's win. Ryelan Lyerly (1) jumps into Deondra Morrison's arms after the final buzzer sounded during Monday's win. Deon Cranford — The Richmond Observer.

HAMLET – In its final home game of the season, the No. 2 Lady Red Rams basketball team of Hamlet Middle School earned a huge win in dramatic fashion over the visiting No. 3 Lady Tigers of West Hoke Middle, and earned a ticket to the conference title game with it.

With the score tied at 35, Ryelan Lyerly took a pass from O’Rena Drake in the right corner, dribbled down the baseline, and banked it off the glass for the go ahead score with only 10.5 seconds remaining.  West Hoke managed to get three shots off in the final moments, but each were blocked sending Hamlet to the Southeaster Middle School Athletic Conference championship game with a 37-35 victory.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because the score and the closing 10 seconds are almost completely identical to the meeting between the two teams earlier this season.  On Jan. 10, when the Lady Tigers traveled to Hamlet, the Lady Red Rams won that one 36-34. 

In that game, West Hoke managed to collect two offensive boards and make three shot attempts in the final 10 seconds, but was unable to connect before the buzzer sounded.

An uncharacteristic shooting slump by Lyerly combined with a strong defensive performance by the Lady Tigers limited Hamlet to just six points in the opening quarter Monday.  With the team’s leading scorer limited to just four first-half points, Drake stepped up for the Lady Red Rams.

In the second quarter alone, Drake blocked four shots, intercepted three inbound passes, forced two jump balls, and recorded numerous steals to keep the Lady Tigers at bay.  With 50.9 seconds remaining in the first half, a West Hoke layup gave the Lady Tigers a 17-13 lead.  Drake cut the Hamlet deficit to two points with a short jumper from the right of the key with 13.3 left until halftime. 

Seconds later, she stole the ball near midcourt, sliced into the lane, and netted a layup with just 2.1 on the clock sending the game into intermission knotted at 17-all.

After both teams scored on their first two possessions of the third quarter, Hamlet got a little sloppy.  A turnover by the Lady Red Rams led to a West Hoke jump shot giving the Lady Tigers a 25-23 lead with 3:48 on the clock. 

On its ensuing possession, Hamlet seemed to buckle under the pressure by West Hoke’s defense nearly losing the ball twice on off-balanced passes.  After the Lady Red Rams lost control of the ball again, Hamlet head coach Deondra Morrison had seen enough and called for a timeout with 3:05 left in the third quarter.

It’s not certain what was said in the meeting, but it worked.  The Lady Red Rams closed out the third quarter on an 8-1 run.  Fresh out of the timeout, Lyerly tied the game with a putback after a three-point attempt from Drake narrowly rimmed out. 

Moments later, Da’Veah Robinson stole the ball away from the Lady Tigers and found Lyerly sprinting towards the basket.  Lyerly’s floater swished through giving the Lady Red Rams a 27-25 lead just 20 seconds after the teams returned from Morrison’s timeout.

Drake demonstrated some impressive skill once again on the Lady Red Rams next possession.  In what was reminiscent of her final shot of the first half, Drake plowed into the lane, split two defenders, and converted a tough layup extending the Hamlet lead to four. 

After another West Hoke turnover, Shadaisha Lindsey found Lyerly all alone in the left corner.  Lyerly’s three-pointer failed to connect, but even with several players already in position, she managed to run into the paint and pull down the rebound off of her own miss.  Her putback shot was true giving the Lady Red Rams a six-point advantage at 31-26 with just 35.6 seconds on the third quarter clock. 

West Hoke stopped the bleeding with a free throw in the final seconds, but Hamlet entered the final quarter with a five-point advantage.

Hamlet started the final quarter by working on the clock.  After passing around the perimeter for 59 seconds, Lyerly found herself wide open under the net and scored with an easy shot attempt. West Hoke failed to connect on their next attempt allowing Hamlet to eat up another minute off of the clock. 

The Lady Tigers managed to swat a Hamlet pass out of bounds, but Drake found Lyerly under the net on the inbound pass resulting in another easy two points.

Now up nine at 35-26, it seemed as though it was going to be smooth sailing for the Lady Red Rams, but that wasn’t the case.  In the final two minutes, West Hoke went on a 9-0 run ending with a game-tying layup with only 20 seconds left on the clock.  That set up to Lyerly’s go ahead basket and Hamlet’s defensive stand for the win.

Lyerly finished with a game-high 18 points, Drake followed with 12, and Jamia Crowder netted seven.

With the win, Hamlet improves to 8-2 and will travel to No. 1 Rockingham (10-0) on Thursday for the conference title game at 4 p.m.