HANCEVILLE — Takisha Jordan came off the floor late in the fourth quarter to a standing ovation, trotting to the bench as fans chanted her name.
A final tribute to a veteran star player.
Just like she did throughout her high school basketball career, the Austin High guard spent the morning making tough plays look easy, only this time, she did so on the big stage of the Class 6A Northwest Regional.
But for Austin, the ending wasn’t perfect.
Hoover used a strong second half to pull away, and the third-ranked Buccaneers advanced past Austin 59-35 Wednesday morning in the Class 6A Northwest Regional semifinals.
Hoover (25-4) advances to face top-ranked Sparkman on Saturday in the regional final.
“(Hoover) is long and athletic, and there were times when that caused us problems,” Austin coach Bruce Hamilton said. “We had a hard time keeping them off the boards, and coming in, we knew that was something we couldn’t let happen. But against them, that’s easier said than done.”
Austin kept pace for most of the first half. Jordan made back-to-back baskets in the second quarter, sparking a 10-4 run that pulled the Black Bears to within five.
Jordan led Austin with 13 points and six rebounds, while Tyra Johnson added 10 points.
“We were going to try and mix up defenses, and at times, we felt like we could press them,” Hamilton said. “In the first half, we had a few spurts where we got the shots we wanted. We just couldn’t do it for long enough stretches.”
Hoover pulled away in the second half. Behind a pair of strong interior players in Marqu’es Webb and Kara Rawls, the Buccaneers out-rebounded Austin 28-11 in the final two quarters.
Webb finished with 16 points and 18 rebounds, and Rawls added seven points and seven rebounds. Breigha Wilder-Cochran had 16 points for the Buccaneers.
“It was a tough game,” Jordan said. “We knew it was going to be. (Hoover) is just so big. It’s hard to get shots against them.”
At times, Austin had three freshmen and a sophomore on the floor. For most of the season, the Black Bears had two freshmen, Johnson and Katie Speegle, and a sophomore, Aaliyah Rice, in the starting lineup.
Hamilton said he enjoyed watching Austin’s young team grow throughout the season.
“These young ladies, this was one of the most enjoyable seasons I’ve been a part of,” he said. “This team came a long way since the summer. This young bunch has got some talent, and our seniors did a great job of helping bring them along.
“Hopefully this experience right here is something we can build on because I think the players we have coming back can have bright futures.”
Contact Justin Graves at 256-340-2460 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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