Staging one of the tightest girls prep games of the season, Byrd and Loyola went toe-to-toe on Friday night at the Byrd gym with the Lady Flyers slipping away with a 48-45 victory in front of a nearly packed house.
Byrd pulled within a point with about a minute to play, but Loyola’s Alex Williams and Amber Smith converted free throws for the win.
“Even though it was a non-district game, it was like a playoff game for both teams because most of these girls know each other,” Loyola coach Kyle Tanner said. “This was a big game for both of us going into district play. I expected this to be a good game.”
Despite leading 27-19 at halftime, the Lady Flyers (11-9) couldn’t put away the Lady Jackets. With buckets from three different players to open the second half, Byrd pulled within 27-25 three minutes in. But Loyola scored seven of the next nine points to build the cushion back to 35-27.
Three free throws from Byrd’s Deunya Small to close the third quarter pulled her team within 35-30.
But Smith, who led all scorers with 21 points, took over most of the ball-handling duties for Loyola in the fourth quarter and helped stymie the Byrd pressure.
“We knew we had to keep working hard and play good defense on every possession,” Smith said. “We knew we had to get a stop and not give up a turnover. Everything worked out and we were able to get out with a win.”
Byrd turned up the full court pressure in the early going and harassed the Lady Flyers into 12 first-half turnovers – but Loyola still led 27-19 at the break, thanks to some timely putbacks under the bucket.
A 3-pointer by Byrd’s Ronesha Murff three minutes into the contest put the Lady Jackets in front 7-5. But Loyola reeled off an 8-0 run to go in front 13-7and carried that over into the second quarter.
Smith ruled that frame, driving the length of the court several times for layups or soft fall-away jumpers.
Byrd kept firing up 3-pointers but had little success from behind the arc. Murff did connect on a second trey and Amber Jackson dropped one in but it wasn’t enough to keep the visitors at bay. Smith scored 8 points in the second quarter as Loyola led by as many as 9 points.