Regents unable to fight through fatigue, falls to Briarfield Academy in state championship

Published 9:57 pm Saturday, February 19, 2022

The Regents girls basketball team fell to Briarfield Academy on Saturday in the MAIS Class AA state championship after consecutive come-from-behind victories in their previous two games.

The Lions defeated Riverdale Academy in the quarterfinals on Thursday after trailing by 11 with five minutes remaining and defeated Humphrey’s Academy in the semifinals on Friday after trailing by five with 45 seconds remaining, but were unable to complete a third straight comeback against a Briarfield team that came into the game as heavy underdogs.

Regents looked winded in the fourth quarter as they struggled to finish easy looks on the offensive end while conceding plenty of open shots on the defensive side of the ball.

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“Our girls just got tired,” said Buckner. “Even though they were tired they kept fighting and fighting but at some point there’s a limit.”

Regents struggled to establish their full-court press, allowing Briarfield to beat them over the top for easy layups in transition. Buckner pulled his team out of the press early in the second quarter after the Rebels scored on back-to-back uncontested layups.

“They looked like they were enjoying us pressing them because they were able to push the ball a little bit more,” he said “They had some quick, athletic girls that were able to get down the court and they were getting some easy layups.”

Their offense kept them in the game through halftime, as senior Jamya Fondren put the team on her back with 10 of their 21 first-half points.

The Lions led by as much as eight in the second half before the Rebels went on a 15-0 run to open up their largest lead of the game at 41-34. Regents was unable to stop the bleeding, giving up easy looks in transition as Briarfield ran them up and down the floor.

“They started leaking out and they got a couple easy buckets in transition, then they just kind of ran away with it,” said Buckner.

Briarfield’s fans made their presence felt down the stretch, getting louder and louder as the Rebels inched closer to victory. The Lions appeared rattled by the raucous environment, as they surrendered offensive rebound after offensive rebound down the stretch that led to plenty of second-chance points.

“We did not box out, we were just looking at the ball,” Buckner said. “Some of that’s probably fatigue, some of it was being awestruck. It was a pretty intense atmosphere in there so some of that was probably jitters.”

Regents ran out of energy down the stretch, as they were unable to find a final burst of energy to close their third game in three days.

“Three games in three days played into my energy level so I can only imagine what it did to those girls,” Buckner said.

Buckner’s squad refused to give up however, fighting their way back into the game in the final minute after trailing by eight with just over three minutes remaining.

The Lions had a chance to tie down 51-49 with 15 seconds on the clock, but Miracle Joiner stepped on the baseline as she drove towards the basket, giving the ball back to Briarfield with less than 10 seconds to go.

The Rebels made both free throws to put the game out of reach, eventually winning 55-49 in a highly contested final.

Fondren finished with a game-high 26 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter alone.

“Jamya, a senior, at times tonight it looked like she was trying to put the team on her shoulders, and she was able to at times. She did well tonight,” said Buckner.

Regents star Miracle Joiner struggled to find her shot throughout the game but found other ways to contribute, posting 13 rebounds, six assists and two steals to go along with her 14 points.

Buckner said his team would not even be in a position to win the state championship without his star’s leadership and confidence throughout the season.

“She’s more than just an amazing basketball player, she’s an amazing student,” said Buckner. “Straight A’s, always smiling, just a great girl. She’s like a coach’s dream, I love having Miracle on our basketball team.”

Buckner said he could not be more proud of his team despite the loss, saying he admired their character and poise throughout the season.

“I just wanted to say how proud I am of these girls,” he said. “One of our goals, one of our prayers is that we glorify God in all we do and these girls have done that this year and they’re going to continue to do that. I can’t wait to see what they’re going to accomplish in the future.”