KILLEN — The way Brooks’ girls finished Saturday’s Class 4A, Area 15 basketball tournament championship game made their sluggish start offensively seem like a distant memory.
The Lions, who managed 15 first-half points, dialed up some defensive pressure after halftime, got Priceville’s interior players in foul trouble and used strong performances by K’maya Roach and Erin Jewell to pull away in a 55-38 win.
Brooks, which trailed by as many as six in the third quarter, closed the game on a 21-4 run to take the area title and earn a home game in the sub-regional round Thursday against Central.
It will be the fourth meeting between Brooks and Central. The Wildcats won two of the previous three.
Priceville also advances and will travel to West Limestone. Sub-regional winners advance to the Northwest Regional tournament at Wallace State-Hanceville Community College.
“We couldn’t get anything going that first half,” Brooks coach Ryan Roberson said. “After the first basket of the third quarter, we changed back to a press, settled in and started working it into the post where our strength is.
“After their girls got in foul trouble, we were able to assert our post play the rest of the game. And Roach really stepped it up for the second straight game. That’s what we’re looking for her to do now.”
Brooks trailed 19-15 at halftime and went back to its press defense after Britt McCormick’s basket 37 seconds into the third quarter cut Priceville’s lead to 21-17.
The Lions tied it at 24 on a Roach 3-pointer and the teams traded baskets until Deanna Thompson’s gave Brooks a permanent lead at 36-34.
Roach followed with 28-foot 3-pointers at the buzzer to put Brooks ahead by five heading into the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs got no closer the rest of the way.
“Before the game started, I was shooting from all the way out there to warm up, just in case I had to,” Roach said. “Then, the play we had called up there didn’t work, so I had to put it up.”
Later, Roach drove into the key and found McCormick with a behind-the-back pass for a layup and a 41-35 lead with 4:27 to play. In transition, she dished to McCormick again to make it a 9-point game with 2:34 left.
Roach finished with 16 points, five rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots.
Post player Erin Jewell also scored 16 to go with 12 rebounds, and the Lions benefitted from Priceville’s front-court starters Emilee Cunningham and Alex Moore fouling out in the fourth quarter.
“We definitely handled the press better in the first half than we did the second half,” Priceville coach Terina Nelson said. “Foul trouble threw us out of whack a little bit with Emilee and Alex having to sit a while. It’s hard for us to match up with them with Roach handling the ball.”
Jada Beverly led the Bulldogs with 9 points.
Neither team could capitalize at the free-throw line, Brooks going 9-of-22 and Priceville making 2 of 9.
The Bulldogs shot 15-of-41 from the field (6-of-22 from 3) and totaled 22 turnovers.
Bryan App can be reached at 256-740-5730 or email@example.com. Follow @bappster on Twitter.