February 16, 2010 9:47:00 AM
ABERDEEN -- The top-seeded Aberdeen High School girls basketball team moved one step closer to its fourth straight trip to Jackson with a 62-40 win against a game, but inexperienced and outmanned Cleveland East Side squad in the first round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 3A North Half State playoffs here Monday evening.
The Lady Bulldogs bagged their first two shots of the game, including a 3-pointer from Janee Hodges, for a 5-0 lead, but East Side''s Lashyra Cotton countered with three baskets to make it 7-6 with a little less than five minutes left in the first quarter.
A 12-3 run, which included six free throws by Michelle Stewart and a pair of field goals by Regina Barker, however, propelled Aberdeen to a 19-9 lead at the close of the first period.
East Side, which suited up only seven players -- all freshmen or sophomores -- never got closer than 12 points the rest of the way.
Aberdeen coach Latorrence Bivens started substituting late in the first quarter and, after an 11-2 run to start the second period had pushed the count to 30-11, had all but one regular on the bench for the final 4 minutes, 38 seconds of the half.
Three Lady Trojan baskets in the final two minutes narrowed the gap to 31-17 at intermission.
Bivens'' starters returned to begin the third quarter, but East Side battled the Lady Bulldogs on almost even terms the next eight minutes and trailed 42-27 entering the fourth period.
A basket and a free throw by Rachel Garth midway through the final quarter pushed Aberdeen''s margin to 20 points. A Jameika Hoskins layup and charity toss upped the lead to 22 with 1:22 remaining.
"Our defensive effort picked up as the game went on," Bivens said. "They (East Side) scored 40, and that''s an average of only 10 points a quarter. I''ll take that any day of the week."
Hoskins claimed scoring honors for Aberdeen with a game-high 19 points. Stewart and Barker chipped in 12 and 10 points, respectively. Dayana McGee and Garth finished with seven points each, and Hodges had five.
"Once again, we got balanced scoring from our team," Bivens said. "We stress that everyone needs to take advantage of their scoring opportunities because Jameika (Hoskins) is going to be double-teamed a lot, so all of them will have to step up and fill the void."
Aberdeen (24-2), the second-ranked Class 3A girls team in the state in the most recent Clarion-Ledger poll, improved to 24-2, while East Side finished 12-16.
Cotton was the lone Lady Trojan in double figures with 17 points.
"We gave it our best shot, but we lacked the firepower, the experience, and the bench to compete with a team like Aberdeen," said East Side head coach Carol Davis, who just completed her ninth year at the helm of the East Side program.
Aberdeen will look to extend its winning streak to 14 when it travels Thursday to Belmont to play the winner of the Ripley and an undetermined opponent from Region 4 in the North Half State Tournament.