The Lady ’Toppers fell behind 10-2 to Stone Memorial in the opening minutes and trailed the rest of the way in a 61-46 loss. It was the second straight year Science Hill’s season ended in the state quarterfinals.
“We got behind the 8-ball early and battled back, but we missed a couple of opportunities when we had a chance to cut it more,” Science Hill coach Scottie Whaley said. “We just couldn’t get over the hump. Our kids played hard and they’ve carried us the last two years to get down here.
“The seniors, they’re a special group on and off the court, great ambassadors for our school. I’ve watched them grow up from girls to young ladies and they have bright futures ahead of them. I love them and am super proud of them.”
After splitting with Stone in the regular season, the third game was an uphill fight for Science Hill from the get-go. Still, there was a never-give-up attitude as the Lady ’Toppers cut the lead to 17-12 in the second quarter and twice to six points in the third quarter.
Alasia Smith led the Lady ’Toppers (28-8) with 18 points and eight rebounds, capping off one of the most decorated careers in the program’s history.
“I had a great opportunity to make it to the state back-to-back years,” Smith said. “Such an amazing group of sisters. We got here. We just couldn’t get over the hump.”
Science Hill trailed 31-18 at halftime and fought back to cut the lead to 44-38 in the third quarter. The Lady Panthers (29-4) responded by pushing the lead back to double digits early in the fourth.
Emma Capps, Stone’s 6-foot-2 post player who will be a teammate to Smith at Gardner-Webb University, paced the Lady Panthers with 25 points and seven rebounds. She hit three shots from 3-point range and was 10-for-11 from the free-throw line.
Also on the inside, Tessa Miller, the Panthers’ 6-foot-3 forward, came through with 14 points. Their presence was also felt on the defensive end.
“Their post players, they were able to get the ball inside and finish,” Science Hill guard Aliyanna Hill said. “We weren’t able to finish our shots, which got us behind.”
Jeila Greenlee gave the Lady ’Toppers an early spark, scoring Science Hill’s first nine points of the game. Greenlee went to the bench midway through the second quarter and did not return.
Erin Egerbrecht made their next shot, a 3-pointer from the left arc, and finished with nine points.
Overall, the Lady ’Toppers struggled to hit much of anything in the first half, making 28.6 percent from the field. They got better in the second half, upping those numbers to 34 percent for the game.
Egerbrecht said the team felt good about their chances after their third-quarter comeback. Science Hill had rallied late to beat Bearden days earlier in a sectional game to get to the state tournament.
“After playing the Bearden game, we saw we could come back from a pretty good deficit. We felt confident we could do it again,” Egerbrecht said. “We had played scared, a little intimidated. But, that’s OK. We put it all out there. For it to end, it’s tough.”
Hill added, “You know that moment is coming, but when it actually comes, it really hurts. You don’t think it’s going to end.”