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Strong finish carries Clark into the regional semifinals

February 20, 2019

With Steele looking to take its first lead since the early stages of the second quarter, Clark took a moment to pause.

Specifically, the Cougars passed back and forth in the backcourt, waiting to draw out the Knights late in the fourth quarter of their Region IV-6A regional quarterfinal. When that happened, Clark senior guard Ta’Niya Jackson took over, scoring 11 straight points to lead the Cougars to a 56-49 victory Tuesday at Northside Gym.

“We had to calm down,” said Jackson, a 5-4 guard who is signed with Incarnate Word. “We were going too fast and rushing and nothing was going in. I had to be smarter, and I took what the defense gave me, and I looked to attack and just played smart.”

The game’s signature shot occurred when Jackson found a lane and attacked as she sank a floater over three defenders, including Steele’s 6-3 center Ashley Bowen that made it 49-46 with 1:36 in the fourth.

“It was huge,” Clark senior forward Cassie Bell. “It was like a big rush going through your body. It gives you another motivation to keep playing and keep pressing forward no matter how tired you are.”

Clark coach Rihana Houy wanted to use her team’s quickness advantage to work into open shooting areas against the taller Knights. Jackson’s shot was a good example of that.

“We knew we were going to have to shoot over a lot of height, so we practiced a lot of floaters and pull-up jumpers so we were locked in in terms of the game plan,” Houy. “It was a huge shot. Huge finish. I’m proud of (Jackson), and I’m proud of the way we played.”

Jackson finished with a game-high 20 points. Sydney Solitaire and Rachel Lee each had nine. Bell had eight points and a team-best eight rebounds.

The Cougars (32-2) will play Edinburg High in a regional semifinal at 6 p.m. Friday at Northside Gym. Clark defeated Edinburg, 72-19, in the Pharr Valley View tournament earlier this season.

Bowen helped the Knights climb back in the contest after they trailed 29-23 at halftime. Bowen, who is signed with North Texas, scored eight points to open the third as Steele pulled to within 34-3 with 3:32 in the third. Lee answered by nailing a 3-pointer and 5-1 junior center Kayla Harris came off the bench to scored five points, while guarding Bowen.

Bowen, who finished with a team-high 14 points, scored back-to-back baskets to draw the Knights two within 45-44, at the 4:25 mark. Jackson answered to move the Cougars to a three-point lead.

Aaliyah Ellis scored on a put-back for Steele to make it 47-46 with 2:45 left. The Knights missed a go-ahead shot on their next possession and Jackson pulled down the rebound with 2:10 left. Clark pulled back on the subsequent possession until Knights came out to guard. That worked to the Cougars’ advantage.

“Ta’Niya, as quick and shifty as she is, being able to give her space and allowing her to do is how I read her,” Bell said. “It’s easier for her to dump down and pass instead of having to go through making a shot, and I feel that ball movement helped out a lot. Everyone got touches, and everyone was able to score.”

dhinojosa@express-news.net

Twitter: @hinojosa_david