Naylor tops Portageville in battle of state-ranked girls teams
By BRAD HURT ~ DAR Sports Writer
NAYLOR -- Thursday's nonconference battle between two state-ranked teams proved to be one-sided as the Naylor Lady Eagles dominated Portageville for a 70-57 win.
"Give credit to Naylor, they did a good job all night long," Portageville coach Eric Ellerbrook said.
Hailee Deckard scored a game-high 28 points for Naylor (12-1), which entered the game ranked fourth in Class 2.
Portageville (10-2), ranked third in Class 3, trailed 53-35 before scoring the first eight points of the fourth quarter by controlling the offensive boards and getting easy looks for Jeleea Drake and Kellye Penn.
"They are the 'rebounding-est' team I've ever seen, given their size," Naylor coach Stephana Deckard said of Portageville. "Kellye Penn rebounds like someone a lot taller than she is."
Penn led Portageville with 21 points, 15 of which came in the second half. Drake finished with 15.
"Our girls played AAU ball with Kellye Penn," coach Deckard said. "We knew we had to work on them (Penn and Drake) and shut them down. That was our main goal from the get-go, don't let her catch it."
The fourth-quarter run trimmed Naylor's lead from a comfortable margin to 53-43 but the Lady Eagles answered the challenge by turning up their defensive pressure and getting big points from Hailee Deckard and Cheyenne Ragsdale.
"Sometimes when your bench isn't as long as schools that are bigger than you, it's easy to give up," coach Deckard said. "The fourth quarter is the one where we have to work extra hard."
Ragsdale completed a 3-point play with 6 minutes remaining to push the Lady Eagle lead to 13 points, and finished the game with 15 points Moriah Goodrum added 14 points off the bench for the Lady Eagles.
"She's such a huge, important part of our team," coach Deckard said of Ragsdale. "She doesn't always have all the numbers, as far as the points, but she does so much work inside that is overlooked an awful lot. When she gets rebounds and is able to score, too, it's good for her to receive some of the spotlight that I think she deserves all the time."
Drake scored three consecutive baskets off offensive rebounds at the start of the second half, cutting Naylor's 33-20 halftime advantage to seven barely a minute into the third quarter. The Lady Bulldogs also focused more on dumping the ball into the post rather than relying on perimeter shots to start the second half.
"Inside as a team, we played team ball," Ellerbrook said. "Pounding it inside is one of our strengths."
Ellerbrook said the versatile game of Hailee Deckard forced him to make adjustments to his defense on a play-by-play basis.
"With Hailee Deckard in the game you have to switch it up a lot, because she can take it to the rack," he said.
Those adjustments frustrated the Lady Eagles at times and allowed Portageville to make their runs.
"When they change up their offense or defense, either one, it affects any players and they have to adjust," coach Deckard said. "I just don't feel like we adjusted."
Naylor led 15-9 after one quarter and performed well at the free-throw line, which had been perhaps their most evident weakness to this point in the season. As a team, the Lady Eagles made 20-of-30 attempts at the charity stripe, led by Deckard's 9-of-14 and Goodrum's 8-of-10.
"We've been working on free-throw shooting," Stephana Deckard said. "That's been an issue for us in every game we've played. It was a whole lot better than what we have been doing."