The Locust Fork Hornets’ magical run through the 2015-2016 season came to an end last Tuesday in the semifinals of the 4A Final Four at Legacy Arena at the BJCC in Birmingham.
A pair of last-second shots would not fall and Sipsey Valley survived with a 52-51 victory over the Lady Hornets.
Locust Fork really controlled things in the first half and built as much as a nine-point lead midway through the second quarter.
Sipsey Valley, led by 6’3 junior center Queen Ford, controlled the paint and owned a substantial rebounding advantage but Locust Fork buried 6-of- 13 shots from behind the arc in the first half and led 32-29 at the half time break.
The second half was a different story.
Sipsey Valley continued to go inside while Locust Fork began to misfire from deep.
In the second half, Locust Fork shot just 29 percent (7 of 24) overall, including just 2 of 7 from behind the three-point line.
Sipsey Valley began to pull away early in the fourth quarter (leading 52-44 with 5:09 to play) before the Lady Hornets fought their way back.
The late-game surge was keyed by a Locust Fork defense that held Sipsey Valley scoreless for the last five minutes of the game.
Locust Fork got a layup by Jaime Gail Hudson to pull within six at 52-46 with 4:48 to play. Kimberly Horton shook loose for another layup and Locust Fork trailed just 52-48 with 3:49 left.
Neither offense could do much over the next three minutes as the defenses forced bad shots and turnovers.
Finally, after six straight scoreless possessions, Madison Cater found an opening in the middle of the Sipsey Valley defense and scored in the paint. She was fouled on the shot and buried the free throw to cut the Sipsey Valley lead to just one at 52-51 with nine seconds left.
Locust Fork fouled quickly on the inbound and the Hornets had one last chance.
Sipsey Valley missed the free throw and Locust Fork pushed the ball back down the floor. The Lady Hornets had two good looks from inside the paint at the end but neither shot would fall.
Locust Fork (30-2) got 12 points each from Kimberly Horton and Ashlyn Adkins and 11 from Madison Cater. Jaime Gail Hudson had eight points and seven rebounds while Carissa Horton added eight points and six rebounds.
Sipsey Valley (28-5) got 16 points and 17 rebounds from Queen Ford and 16 points from Charity Brown. Taylor Smith came off the bench to chip in 10 points.
Locust Fork forced 17 turnovers while committing just eight but Sipsey Valley won the rebounding battle 39-27.
Locust Fork finished the game shooting 36.5 percent (19 of 52) and hit 8 of 20 (40 percent) from behind the arc. However, normally a very good free throw shooting team, the Lady Hornets hit just 5 of 12 from the line, including 3 of 10 in the second half.
Sipsey Valley moved on to play No. 1 Deshler in the championship game Friday. The game was tied 30-30 at the half before Deshler outscored Sipsey Valley 24-7 in the third quarter en route to a 60-46 win.