HENDERSONVILLE - It wasn't a pretty win Friday night for the home-standing Pope John Paul II Lady Knights' basketball team, but they got the job done, 50-43 against visiting St. Cecilia.
JPII (12-16, 2-10) forced the Scarabs into 25 turnovers, and recorded 17 steals as they won a back-and-forth contest to keep their season alive.
The victory in the DII-AA play-in game earns the Knights the sixth seed for the DII-AA Quarterfinal round and a return trip to Nashville, where they will take on rival Father Ryan.
"We are excited about another matchup with Father Ryan," JPII head coach Angi Puckett said. "Our girls love to compete against them (Father Ryan). My group is already a pretty scrappy bunch, but that game puts them into an extra gear."
The two teams split their two regular-season meetings, so Saturday's game will not only determine who advances in the playoffs, but it will also decided who wins the season series between the two Catholic schools.
"They rebound the ball well, so we are going to have to fight to keep them off the glass," Puckett said of her game plan. "We want to put pressure on their guards and attack them."
Friday night's game featured eight lead changes and eight ties in the first half, as neither team jumped ahead for more than a three-point lead.
Leading by two with the third quarter under three minutes, Puckett elected to turn up the heat on defense and implement her full-court press.
"I felt like we were stagnant offensively up until that point," she said on her decision. "Sometimes, when we pick up the pressure that gets us going."
Puckett's crew needed easy baskets and they did just that with their pressure creating several chances around the rim.
"That was one of the emphases for us was to get the ball in the paint," she said. "Shots were not falling tonight from the outside, so I told them no more 3-pointers until we attacked the paint first."
Tied at 31 with just a few ticks left on the third-quarter clock, Leanna Pearson drained the team's only 3-pointer of the eight-minute stretch for a big lift going into the final frame.
"For her to have the confidence to step up, shoot that shot, and then make it was good to see," Puckett added.
JPII closed out the win in the fourth quarter with a bevy of free throws, key defensive stops, and timely fast break points.
"It's a big deal to win a game like this," Puckett said of her team. "Our girls compete hard and they were not ready for it (the season) to end."
Tip-off at Father Ryan for the quarterfinal round is 4 p.m.
JPII (50): Ashley Malone 20, Keonna Chumbley 12, Anastin Lee 6, Leanna Pearson 6, Alex Gift 5, Lillie Van Metre 1.
St. Cecilia (43): Goodrum 11, Galossini 9, Gilliand 8, Davis 8, William-Ridley 4, Reisinger 3.