After falling behind four after one, the Lady Titans, ranked second in the state in the final Alabama Sports Writers Association poll, extended their defense the full length of the court, forcing 34 turnovers on their way to a double-digit victory.
“They anticipate passes very well,” Ragland coach Rush Rutledge said. “They’re long. They’re a very good basketball team. Don’t take anything away from them because of the turnovers, they caused those turnovers.”
Rutledge said he anticipated Holy Spirit coming with the pressure earlier than it did. So, when the Lady Titans switched it up on them, he wasn’t caught by surprise. His team simply didn’t respond as he expected.
“This was not our best game,” Rutledge said. “We didn’t play well today. That turnover margin is probably the most we’ve had all-year.”
The loss was the second for Ragland in as many years at the Final 48 after falling by a bucket to McIntosh in last year’s semifinals.
The Lady Purple Devils went most of the season without the services of seniors Emily Church and Madison Oliver.
Church, who was averaging 18 points a game before tearing her ACL early in the season, was in uniform but didn’t play. Oliver, who returned to action for the regional tournament after tearing her MCL, came off the bench and played 15 minutes.
Holy Spirit sisters Kaitlyn and Rachel Taylor, each of whom stand 5-foot-11, combined for 28 points and 19 rebounds.
Kaitlyn, a senior, scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds to go along with six steals. Rachel, a sophomore, recorded a double-double with 15 points and 10 boards and added five steals in 31 minutes of action.
Center Tamera Giles, a 5-10 sophomore, scored 20 points and pulled down 14 rebounds, both game-highs.
“She has tremendous reach,” Holy Spirit coach Roger Taylor said of Giles.
“She plays like a girl 6-1, 6-2 and she knows how to get position and she finishes pretty well when we’re able to get to the ball to her.”
The Lady Titans (32-1) will face fourth-ranked McIntosh in the Class 1A state championship game Thursday at 3:30 p.m.
McIntosh defeated R.A. Hubbard 65-58 in the other semifinals matchup.
The Lady Titans took a 24-18 edge into the half.
The Lady Purple Devils (23-11) fell behind a dozen after three. They cut it to nine a couple times in the fourth.
But their struggles at the free-throw line prevented them getting any closer.
“We couldn’t make free-throws down the stretch,” said Rutledge of his team which went 8-for-20 from the charity stripe.
“They kept fouling us. We went 9-for-19 and that’s not even counting the front end of the 1-and-1s that you get an opportunity to make.”
Kailey Echols led the Lady Purple Devils with 13 points but sat much of the second quarter with three fouls.
Justice Looney had a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds and Mar’Quena McKinney added 11 points and eight boards. Ragland won the rebounding battle 48-39.
“They were the biggest,” Looney said.
“But they weren’t the most physical team we’ve ever played. We could’ve took them.”
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Stars. He can be reached at 256-235-3575. Follow him on Twitter @birds_word.