REIDSVILLE – For a team that has 11 players who haven't played in the NCHSAA state playoffs, the Tarboro Lady Vikings surprised their head coach Jamie Willoughby and their fans who made the three hour trip Monday.. After coming off of one of their worst losses of the season, Willoughby didn't know what to expect.
Despite trailing by as many as 25 points at one point in the game, the Vikings made a big run in the second half and fought back. That made their coach happy. Tarboro cut the No. 1 seeded Reidsville Lady Rams lead to 10, but just couldn't get any breaks and lost 63-53 in the first round of the NCHSAA 2-A state playoffs.
"I thought we played well minus the second quarter," Willoughby said. "I was so glad to see that we didn't give up and continued to play."
Willoughby was impressed that her team came out with fire in their eyes. They just came out and played above their coaches expectations. Tarboro won the first quarter and the second half, but the second quarter turned out to be the downfall.
"I didn't know how we would come out and respond," Willoughby said. "I thought we came out and made a statement early."
Tarboro scored just four points in the second quarter and turned the ball over 10 times in that frame. Those miscues in that quarter came back to be the pit of defeat for the Vikings as it led to 15 points for the Rams, who scored 22 in the quarter.
"The second quarter was our let down," Willoughby said. "But I was glad to see them fight back and finish the game like we did."
Viking junior Lisa Jones went to work early on for her Viking teammates and scored their first seven points. But things didn't look so well for Jones after that amazing start. She got sick during halftime and Willoughby wasn't sure if she was going to play in the second half. The decision didn't lie on Willoughby's shoulders, because within the first minute and 30 seconds of the third quarter, Jones was called for two quick fouls, which was her fourth. She had to sit the remainder of the quarter, but her teammates picked up her slack and continued to battle back for her as she waited patiently to get back in the game.
Tarboro had lacked focus this season when they made careless mental and physical mistakes and would just let teams take advantage of them. But not Monday night, the Vikings battled back and made a statement that Willoughby hopes carries over into next season.
Tarboro trailed 36-17 at halftime, but Willoughby told her team to keep fighting in the second half. Her team listened, because the Vikings exploded mid way through the third quarter. They closed out the quarter on an 8-2 run, which sparked excitement from the players and the fans that had made the trip. Tarboro trailed 52-31 after three.
Jones walked back out on the floor in the fourth quarter and made her presence known. Kharlil Perry and Nyasha Savage began to heat up for the Vikings at just the right time. Perry hit two big lay-ups and Savage hit a three and a five foot jumper early on in the quarter and forced Reidsville to take a time out.
Out of the timeout, Tarboro forced a turnover and Courtney perkins hit a big three pointer from the baseline to cut the lead to 56-42. Quadasha Ruffin then hit a jumper and Perry made another basket and Reidsville took another timeout.
Coming out of that timeout, Tarboro had to begin fouling to stop the clock and hope it would play in their favor. The Vikings cut the lead to 10 with 57 seconds left after Perry hit two free throws. A'Jah Williams hit a pair of free throws with 35 seconds left, but Tarboro couldn't get that break they needed and fell in defeat.
Willoughby thought that if her team could have had just a couple of more minutes to play then the outcome may have been different.
Jones finished with 11, Savage added 13, while Perry chipped in nine.
Willoughby left the court impressed with the way her team responded and fought back. She hopes that this is a building block for next season. Tarboro returns nine players from the team and Perry and Ruffin are the lone seniors.