Lady Trojans headed to the Final Four once again

Published 6:04 pm Wednesday, February 22, 2023

The Charles Henderson Lady Trojans (18-9) have advanced to the Class 5A Girls State Semifinals for the fourth straight time after beating the Eufaula Lady Tigers (25-2) by a score of 45-41 in the South Regional Finals in Montgomery on Feb. 22.

Charles Henderson led 12-8 going into the second quarter and led for the majority of the first half. Eufaula, though, was able to tie the score and then take a brief lead late in the half. A three-pointer from Harmony Hubbard gave the Lady Trojans a 20-17 lead with 1:18 left in the half but Eufaula scored on a layup and a free throw to tie the score again 20-20 with 32 seconds left.

KK Hobdy converted a pair of free throws with 24 seconds left and Eufaula knocked down a layup with 10 seconds remaining in the half to keep the score knotted up 22-22 at halftime.

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Hubbard scored 10 points in the first half, knocking down a pair of three-pointers. She also opened the second half by drilling a three followed by a Hobdy jumper to give CHHS a 27-22 lead with 5:47 left in the third quarter.

KK Hobdy earned All-Tournament MVP. (Photo by Josh Boutwell)

A pair of Eufaula steals and layups led to the Lady Tigers to cut the CHHS lead to 27-26 with 4:21 left in the period but Hobdy grabbed an offensive rebound and knocked down a layup to extend the Lady Trojan lead to 29-26 with 4:08 left in the third. Hubbard drilled yet another three-pointer with 2:52 left to extend the CHHS lead to 33-25 with 2:45 left.

Every time it seemed as though Charles Henderson could start to run away with the game, the Lady Tigers would answer, however. Eufaula drilled a three with 57 seconds left in the third to cut the CHHS lead to 35-34, but Madison Ousley answered with a three of her own to stretch the Lady Trojan lead back out to 38-34 with 31 seconds remaining.

Eufaula’s Jamarion Henderson knocked down a jumper at the free throw line just before time expired to cut the Charles Henderson lead to 38-36 going into the fourth quarter.

Eufaula cut the CHHS lead further to 39-38 with 6:02 left in the game and Charles Henderson started to milk the clock for much of the remainder of the game. Deanna Gosha knocked down a jumper with 2:52 left to extend the Lady Trojan lead to 41-38 but Eufaula answered back seconds later with a layup to cut the lead to 41-40. CHHS held the ball until there was just 58 seconds left on the clock, forcing Eufaula to foul. Hobdy missed her free throw attempt and the Lady Tigers were able to draw a foul on the other end. Eufaula’s Ganiel Palmer knocked down 1-of-2 free throws to tie the score with 50 seconds remaining.

KK Hobdy, Harmony Hubbard and Madison Ousley earned All-Tournament honors.

Out of a Charles Henderson timeout, Hobdy found a wide-open Gosha for a layup to give the Lady Trojans a 43-41 lead with 20 seconds remaining.

“I was struggling, I couldn’t find anyone but she put her hands up and I got it to her and she came through,” Hobdy said of the big play late in the game.

Eufaula missed a layup attempt on the other end and Hobdy grabbed the rebound with less than five seconds remaining forcing Eufaula to foul her again. Hobdy iced the win with a pair of free throws to send the Lady Trojans into the Final Four with a 45-41 win.

Hobdy has made it a habit her entire career – including in the Elite 8 last season – of hitting clutch free throws down the stretch.

“It means a lot, it means a lot,” CHHS coach Dyneshia Jones said of her clutch senior. “She’s the one that I want at the free throw line. Even when she’s missing them, I want her there. I believe in her.”

Charles Henderson won the rebound battle 33-32 and forced 15 turnovers, while only turning the ball over five times themselves. Hobdy earned Tournament MVP as she tallied 13 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals. Hubbard and Ousley also earned All-Tournament honors as Hubbard totaled 17 points and three rebounds, while Ousley scored seven points. Mileah Ward also grabbed 12 rebounds and Gosha earned six points and five rebounds with three blocks. Palmer led Eufaula with 11 points and eight rebounds.

The Lady Trojans are headed back to the Final Four for the fourth straight season.

The win over Eufaula avenged a loss to the Lady Tigers earlier in the season for Charles Henderson.

“We lost in double overtime against them around Christmas and it was all because of a lack defense,” Jones said. “I love the way they’ve improved since the beginning of the season and we’ve been ready for them and waiting on them. We’ve studied film and did what we had to do to beat them.”

The win also sends Charles Henderson back to the State Semifinals, the Final Four, for the fourth straight season and seventh time in the last eight years. Charles Henderson will meet the winners of the Northwest Regional Finals in the Final Four on March 1 in Birmingham at 3 p.m.