By Jonathan Deal
For eight minutes, East Limestone couldn’t miss.
The Indians led by as many as 13 points early on, but couldn’t hang on against a relentless Pleasant Grove press in a 50-48 loss at the 5A girls regional semifinal.
Brennan Crabtree led way once again for East Limestone with 23 points, including 13 in the first quarter. The school’s all-time leading scorer scored the game’s first six points and helped East to a 22-13 first quarter lead.
As good as East was in the opening quarter, Pleasant Grove was better in the second. The Spartans came storming back with a full-court press and closed the half on a 14-3 run to pull within two points at halftime.
“They stepped their defense up and I think we got tired their in the second quarter,” said East Limestone head coach Josh Davis. “We got tired and missed a few easy shots. Our girls are in good shape, but they pressed us the whole game and got tired.”
The late second quarter surge by Pleasant Grove followed by a 6-0 run to start the third left East trailing for the first time early in the second half.
Tired and trailing for the time, East Limestone’s players didn’t blink. They fought back and eventually regained the lead in the opening minutes of the fourth.
“This team doesn’t give up,” said Davis. “They care about each other and play for each other.”
After Taylor Aikerson hit a 3-pointer to put the Spartans up 48-44 with two minutes remaining, Crabtree scored the next two baskets to pull East within a possession at 50-48.
The Indians had one final chance with 10 seconds remaining, but Jhay Johnson’s runner bounced off the rim and they failed to get a clean shot off with two seconds remaining.
Rachael Diamond scored 11 points for East Limestone.
“Our gameplan was to slow down 12 (Crabtree) and 40 (Diamond),” said Pleasant Grove coach Jason Ford. “I just hoped the rest of them didn’t score enough points to beat us.”
It was the first Northwest Regional appearance for East Limestone (26-8) since 1998.