ANNA — Megan Barrett scored six points to close out the third quarter to lead the Carterville Lady Lions to a 45-37 win over Anna-Jonesboro in a SIRR Mississippi girls basketball battle at Union Hall Thursday.
"The girls were resilient tonight," said Carterville coach Matt Crain. "We had a tough loss last Monday against T-Town and we were facing a tough opponent on their home court. But they took care of this one, and we’re now 5-0 and in the driver’s seat in the conference, with four of next five at home."
Carterville (11-2, 5-0 Mississippi) had trouble at the free throw line, making only 20-of-33 attempts. Barrett had the same trouble, making 10-of-19, but the senior guard made shots when she needed to, hitting her final four free throws to finish with a game-high 23 points.
"We shoot free throws everyday in practice, but when it comes to the game we’re not the best," Barrett said. "I was getting frustrated, but I finally decided to bend my knees more and that worked."
Anna-Jonesboro (8-5, 3-3 Mississippi) had fallen behind by eight in the second quarter, but after cutting the lead to six on a layup by Sydney Heath with 4.8 seconds left before the half, the Lady Wildcats went on a 7-1 run to open the third quarter to tie the game at 24.
Barrett then took the ball the length of the court and scored on a layup to regain the lead, and 48 seconds later, found herself at the line after having missed five of six attempts earlier in the quarter. Barrett made both attempts and then made another layup with 1.6 seconds left to give Carterville a six-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
"Making those free throws got my adrenaline going," Barrett said. "I was worried when they tied the game because you never know what A-J is going to do because they can hit big shots, especially 3-pointers. I was worried the whole game until the clock hit zero."
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While Barrett was taking over the Lady Wildcats missed their last four shots during the same time after making 3-of-6 to get back into the game.
A jumper by Angel Helm to open the fourth quarter cut the lead back to four, but that was as close as the Lady Wildcats would get. Carterville made 13-of-20 from the line in the fourth quarter to keep the Wildcats from making a late run.
"We’ve had trouble holding leads this season," said A-J coach Matt Denny. "We came back to tie the game in the third quarter, but Barrett just took over and that’s what you would expect from her. Coach Crain forced us to come out of our 2-3, which they had struggled with, making us go man. We’re 8-5 and that’s way ahead of where we were last year."
Elle Basler led Anna-Jonesboro with 14 points and six rebounds while Helm finished with nine.
The Lady Wildcats got off to a fast start, taking a 4-0 lead on two free throws by Lexa Sharp just 52 seconds after controlling the tip-off. A-J added to the lead 1:34 later when Elle Basler scored on a jumper.
The Lady Lions roared back as Carterville went on an 11-4 run starting with a basket by Jeniah Thompson to take an 11-8 lead with two minutes left. The lead remained the same heading into the second quarter.
Connar Hadley cut the lead back to two by splitting a pair of free throws, but that didn’t break the Lady Lions' momentum. Anna Billingsley and Barrett canned back-to-back 3-pointers to extend the lead to eight points half way through the quarter.