Harris drains game-winner as Miller Career defeats Lincoln Prep in powerhouse showdown

Harris drains game-winner as Miller Career defeats Lincoln Prep in powerhouse showdown

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Kelsey Harris missed her first seven attempts from beyond the 3-point arc.

But trailing by one point with 25 seconds to play, the Miller Career sophomore did not hesitate when she found herself open from long-range once again.

“It was real risky, but we needed it,” Harris said. “I was wide open so I had to take it.”

Harris swished the go-ahead, right wing three and Miller Career survived a fearsome fourth quarter comeback to defeat Lincoln College Prep 43-42 on Monday at the MLK Showcase at Miller Career Academy.

It was a meeting between two of the Class 4 semifinalists from last season, with Lincoln Prep finishing as state runner-up and Miller Career placing fourth. Both lost to state champion Incarnate Word at JQH Arena last March.

Miller Career (12-3) opened up a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead when senior Raya Tally converted a three-point play with less than four minutes to play. Tally, whose sister Rayn hit a buzzer-beater to beat Lincoln Prep in the MLK Showcase last season, scored all seven of her points in the second half after spending much of the first half on the bench in foul trouble.

“I wanted to go harder, make smarter decisions and just play my game,” Tally said of her second half offensive outburst, which included a basket off a fierce scramble for a loose ball in the paint. “The point of my game is to hustle and work hard and just try to put the ball in the hole.”

But the Phoenix lead was short-lived as intense defensive pressure and clutch shooting led Lincoln Prep on an 11-0 run, capped off by an Amari Conn 3-pointer with 45 seconds to play for a 41-40 lead, its first lead since it was 1-0 in the first quarter.

“I would like to say that that was on purpose,” Miller Career coach Darrin White said with a smile. “But I’ve got a team of seniors, and at some point, the experience kicked in and we were able to settle down and get the ball to the right people to get us through the game.”

And the right person was Harris, who came up clutch when Miller Career needed it most, including early in the contest.

Miller Career committed five turnovers in its first seven possessions and were held scoreless for over four minutes in the first quarter before Harris came off the bench to ignite the offense with four quick points.

“I was trying to get us pumped up and get us some points,” said Harris, who joined senior Antuanae Garrett with a team-high 13 points.

Miller Career used its pressure defense to hold Lincoln Prep to just 3-for-22 shooting in the first half, but eight offensive rebounds and nine free throws kept the Blue Tigers within 18-16 at halftime.

“We had to have that conversation in the locker room about trusting our defense,” White said. “We had to trust what we’d been working on and not get excited by the atmosphere, because it was a great atmosphere.”

That conversation resonated with Garrett as she opened the second half with a steal and score, then hit a tough runner in the lane to open up a six-point cushion.

“It was time to let it be known who wanted it more,” said Garrett, who scored seven of her 13 points in the third quarter. “I just came out and did what I had to do to get us a win.”

And the two cracks in the defensive armor were instantly repaired after halftime. Senior Jayrissa Grayson patrolled the glass, collecting a game-high 12 rebounds and triggering several fast break opportunities with long outlet passes that hit the Phoenix guards in stride.

And Miller Career did not commit its first foul until 4 minutes and 30 seconds remained, ultimately causing Lincoln Prep to restart its final possession several times as the Phoenix utilized their fouls to give.

Lincoln Prep was granted two foul shots with 1.5 seconds remaining, but senior Ajanee Bradley missed the second attempt and Grayson secured the rebound and the victory.

“We missed a lot of easy baskets underneath and were out of position a lot, but once it counted, we made a run back and took the lead,” Lincoln Prep coach Jeff Atkins said. “But we had too many errors, too many breakdowns to win against a team like this.”

And for Tally, winning a tough, physical game against a championship-level opponent is an important step as Miller Career seeks a third successive trip to the state semifinals.

“We love this atmosphere, the loud crowds, the fast play,” Tally said. “This is our game, the kind of game we love to play and we can play it with anybody.”

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