LIVINGSTON — Inclement weather forced eighth-seeded Doyle to wait three days to play a Class 2A regional-round playoff game. Ultimately, it was worth the wait and the extra practice time.
Breaking the fullcourt press was the focus in those practices for speedy No. 9 Red River. Doyle ran a clinic on how to break the press en route to a 61-56 win over No. 9 Red River on Thursday at Doyle Elementary.
The Tigers threw several short passes to break the press and sophomore guard Madison Watts took care of the ballhandling in traffic. Doyle then worked the ball to its bigger players, 5-foot-9 sophomore Jessica Nesom and 6-foot-2 senior Belle Rayner.
Nesom repeatedly attacked the basket, often on baseline drives, and scored 13 of her game-high 25 points in the second half. Rayner scored 10 of her 16 points in the second half and finished with 15 rebounds and seven blocked shots.
“We had a roller-coaster of emotions all week,” said Rayner, a returning starter from Doyle’s 2014 state runner-up team. “We knew we couldn’t control the weather, but we were so ready to play. It took a lot of practice, but I’ve learned to block shots without fouling.”
Also stepping up defensively for the Tigers was senior guard Courtney Edwards, who drew three charges and had two key deflections off Red River players in the final two minutes.
Doyle (20-12) advances to a 6 p.m. Saturday quarterfinal at No. 1 Pickering (27-4).
“We were excited to play the game,” Doyle Samantha White said. “We really hit our free throws (16 of 20) and took care of the ball against a tough press.”
Red River led by as many as five points in the second quarter and took a 28-26 lead into halftime. Oksonna Williams scored 12 of her 14 points in the first half. Lakeya Lewis also added 14 for Red River (22-8).
The game was tied twice in the third quarter. Nesom scored 10 points in the third period, including a baseline jumper with 12 seconds left that put the Tigers up 40-38. Edwards drew a charge on Red River’s last possession of the quarter.
“Courtney Edwards was really zoned in on her defense,” White said. “Her job was to get back tonight and protect the goal.”
Red River regained the lead at 46-45 on a 3-pointer by Kimberly Burton with 6:10 remaining. Nesom scored the next five points for Doyle with two strong drives to put the Tigers up 50-48 with 4:44 remaining before Red River tied it at 50-50 on a layup.
Doyle then sank seven of eight free throws in the final three minutes with Watts hitting all six of her tries in that span and all eight in the game. Watts finished with 11 points and six assists.
Red River’s Burton hit two free throws with 1:37 left to cut the Doyle lead to 53-52. Doyle broke the press on its next possession and passed inside to Rayner, who showed good strength to wrestle the ball away from a defender to get the ball up and in. Morgan Blades added a layup on another press break play.
“Belle Rayner is very strong around the basket and made some key baskets,” White said. “Jessica Nesom is very quick on her drives to the basket. We wanted the ball in her hands.”