NAVASOTA — The last half of the district season didn’t play out like the Rudder girls basketball team would have liked, then news got worse over the weekend with starting guard Tianna Mathis being hospitalized after a four-wheeling accident.
Mathis suited up and tried to play in the second quarter but had to exit the game almost immediately after taking a fall while playing defense, leaving sophomore Bryanna Turner to take over. Turner and her teammates responded with flying colors, defeating No. 21 Huntsville 58-49 in a Class 5A bi-district game at Rattler Gym.
“I had a feeling after I saw her go down on the sideline that it was over for her, so I figured I was going to be staying on the court, so I had to be ready with that conditioning,” Turner said. “Actually, I felt very responsible for everything that was going on on the court, and I just pray that she will be here Friday, because that was a very big role to play.”
Rudder (27-7), the District 19-5A fourth-place finisher, advances to play Pflugerville Connally on Friday in an area playoff game at a time and site to be determined. District 20-5A champion Huntsville finished the season at 21-8.
Turner, the shortest player on the court, had the ball in her left hand a majority of the game and finished with 13 points and six assists.
“Bottom line is Bryanna Turner is a winner,” Rudder coach John Shelton said. “She wants to win in practice. She wants to win in games. She wants to win everything she does, and that is the kind of point guard you want leading when playing a team like this and your other point guard is out.”
Turner took control almost immediately after Mathis, who played less than a minute, went down in front of the Rudder bench and to had sit with an ice bag wrapped around her calf for the remainder of the night.
Turner drove to the rim for two baskets and was fouled twice on two other drives by Kieyarra Franklin, who eventually fouled out. Turner made 3 of 4 free throws, giving her seven of the Lady Rangers’ final nine points of the first half, which ended with Rudder leading 27-26.
Turner had plenty of help, especially after the Lady Hornets took a 16-12 lead on an Aliyah Craft basket. Sophomore Cameron Richards, who replaced Mathis, swished 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to put Rudder up 18-16.
“That was huge when Cameron came in and hit those two,” Shelton said. “What it did was open up DeDe [Young] down low. They couldn’t double DeDe like a lot of teams like to do. That’s what she does, comes off the bench and shoots it. She knows she is a shooter, and you better not pass it if you have an open shot or you are going to come out of the game.”
Young, whose biggest contribution was taking three charges, opened the second half with two baskets inside. Keaundra Kelly, who led Rudder with 14 points, then made a 3-pointer on an inbound play, and the Lady Rangers never let Huntsville closer than four points the rest of the way. By the end of the third quarter, Rudder led 45-36 as defensive specialist Rakia Lee played a key role. She harassed Huntsville’s point guard into a five-second violation, hit a 3-pointer and made a layup after a steal.
“Rakia is a very good defensive player, actually better at defense than offense, so when I saw her get that first steal, I got hyped up and knew it was over,” Turner said. “I knew she that she was going to get steal after steal after steal.”
Lee made consecutive baskets off steals in the fourth quarter, and Turner followed with a fastbreak basket and Asani McGee hit a jumper to give Rudder its biggest lead at 54-40.
“The biggest thing as to why we won was because we played hard defense the whole game and in the fourth quarter [Huntsville] were gassed pretty bad,” Shelton said. “That is something we take pride in. Kids coming off the bench played good. I thought Asani played really well both offensively and defensively.”
Lee finished with nine points, and McGee and Young each had eight.
Craft paced Huntsville with 14 points. Tya Rogers had 12 and Kenysha Johnson had 10, including six in the fourth quarter to keep Huntsville close until the final minutes.
Turner and the Lady Rangers worked the clock late, and Turner got to the free-throw line twice. She capped her night by rebounding her own miss with all her teammates at the other end, allowing Rudder to burn more clock.
“I feel like this was my biggest game to play as a leader on the court and be the person that controls everything. It was that type of game,” Turner said. “But with Tianna not on the court and to still win this game shows a lot for the other people that really don’t play as much, because the whole team stepped up tonight and played a great game.”
Rudder 58, Huntsville 49
(Numbers after names indicate field goals made, free throws made-attempted, fouls, points.)
RUDDER (27-7) — Rakia Lee 4 0-0 3 9, Aliyah Johnson 0 0-0 1 0, Alexis Austin 0 0-0 1 0, Bryanna Turner 4 5-8 1 13, Asani McGee 3 2-2 4 8, Cameron Richards 2 0-0 2 6, Keaundra Kelly 5 3-4 2 14, Deondra Young 3 2-4 4 8. TOTALS: 21 12-18 16 58
HUNTSVILLE (21-8) — Aliyah Craft 6 2-4 4 14, Tya Rogers 5 1-4 1 12, Jakesi Fair 0 0-0 1 0, Donterria Brown 2 0-3 0 4, Marquera Jones 1 2-2 4 5, Kieyarra Franklin 1 2-2 5 4, Kenysha Johnson 4 2-2 3 10. TOTALS: 19 9-17 18 49.
Rudder 8 19 18 13 — 58
Huntsville 10 16 10 13 — 49