DYER — As the Gibson County girls’ basketball team was nearing its biggest win since dropping down to Class A, the air was just sucked out of Bo Booth Gymnasium in a moments time.
The Lady Pioneers were 5:19 away from beating the No. 1 team in the Dirty Dozen at home, but as senior guard Briana Fields was going up for a breakaway layup, a strong intentional foul sent Fields bouncing off the court after hitting on the side of her neck.
A 25-minute delay ensued as an ambulance was called, and she was placed on a backboard with a neck brace on.
After a short warm-up period, the Lady Pioneers held on to beat South Side 78-60 on the opening day of the Gibson County Point Guard Thanksgiving Classic.
“Briana is a heart-and-soul type player on this team,” Gibson County coach Mitch Wilkins said. “But I told the girls after the game that she is in our prayers, but she is in God’s hands, and we all hope she is fine.
“It will be interesting to see how we bounce back and how we play.”
Regrouping after an injury is like that is, and the once loud crowd was at more of a hush as the game wound down.
Gibson County’s other senior, Erin Lannom, had a strong 36-point performance as she went 18-for-22 from the free throw line.
“We are all sad that Briana is out, but this motivated us,” Lannom said. “We are doing this for her. We never play for ourselves, always playing for our teammates, but she is not out there now.”
Lannom played a key role in trying to help the Lady Pioneers (5-0) break South Side’s press.
“As they were pressing, we were trying to get the ball in the middle for layups,” Lannom said. “Coach Wilkins always says that when we play defense, we are trying to outlast the offense. Tonight on offense were trying to outlast the defense. We kept the ball moving and took care of it.”
The success was clearly apparent in the second and third quarters as Gibson County outscored the Lady Hawks (3-1) by 15 points.
“We did a good job keeping our composure for the most part,” Wilkins said. “Erin Lannom, Justyce White and Allie Smithson are experienced players, and McKinley Burkett came in and played some good defense for us.”
The Lady Pioneers shared the ball and finished with three players in double figures with Justyce White adding 19 and Briana Fields scoring 18 points.
White had success on the defensive boards holding South Side to one shot and on the offensive boards creating second chances for her team. Gibson County outrebounded the Lady Hawks 14-6 in the first half.
Gibson County must regroup quickly as the Lady Pioneers play Houston County, which has reached the Class A state tournament the last two seasons, at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.
“South Side is a good team, and this is a good win,” Wilkins said. But we lost an important piece of our team.”
Michael Odom, 425-9754