In the early going, an advantage in the low post clearly favored Prattville.
Daniele Ewert and Jae Patterson controlled things in the paint to swing all the momentum in the Lions’ direction.
But that dominance would only last for one half.
Once foul trouble forced Patterson to the bench in the second half, the Jeff Davis trio of Charlene Tillman, Kayla Jackson and Jasmine Walker overran Prattville in the painted area and lifted the Volunteers to a 62-55 victory Wednesday in the 6A Central Regional semifinal.
Jeff Davis (23-8) will face cross-town rival G.W. Carver (25-2) in Friday’s championship game at 9 a.m.
After Patterson collected her third foul late in the first half, the Lions (20-9) struggled without the presence of its 6-foot-3 forward. The junior shot blocker played just a little more than six minutes the rest of the way.
“It was very big,” Vols coach Lakenya Knight said. “I thought once she got in (foul) trouble, that we could use our big people. … We were able to isolate some of the smaller players and try to make layups.”
Jeff Davis quickly exposed Prattville’s lack of depth down low. The Vols got 16 of their 25 third-quarter points from Tillman, Jackson and Walker to forge a 40-36 advantage heading into the fourth period.
“Having a 6-3 forward on the bench in the second half hurts you,” Lions coach Virginia Barber said.
Most of the damage the Vols inflicted can be attributed to Jackson, who finished with 13 points off the bench.
“I just had to believe in myself, play strong and work hard,” said Jackson, who also pulled down 12 rebounds. “Once (Patterson) got in foul trouble, we couldn’t be stopped as a team.”
Prattville didn’t fold completely, however.
As in their subregional victory over Oak Mountain, the scrappy Lions clawed back to cut the deficit to 51-49 on Dazhanae Legette’s layup with 2:46 remaining, forcing a timeout by Knight.
“We kept telling them they got to want it and fight,” Barber said. “We played hard. Jeff Davis beat us by (17) during the season, so I can’t say we didn’t play our best.”
Knight’s message to her squad was simple.
“Make layups,” she said. “Once we get ourselves in the bonus, we could try to draw contact to get ourselves to the free-throw (line). We were not going to try to shoot any outside shots because, obviously, they were not falling.”
Jeff Davis then went on a 7-0 run, including two baskets by Jackson, to secure a berth in the regional title game and end Prattville’s best season since 2000.
Tia Monora led the Vols with 17 points.
Aaliyah Holmes scored 18 points, Ewert had 17 along with seven rebounds, and Legette chipped in 16 points for Prattville, which carried a four-point lead into halftime after an impressive 16-0 surge midway through the second quarter.
“The younger girls really stepped up in this game,” an emotional Ewert said. “I was very proud of them. Jeff Davis just outsized us, to be honest. They got us once they started going deeper and deeper into their bench, and it just wore us out.”