BY BRIAN HAMILTON
SEYMOUR – TKA advanced to its first region semifinal since 2020 on Tuesday night, as the Lady Lions put their foot on the gas early and never let up, ending Notre Dame’s season with a 56-23 win in the region quarterfinals.
“We just punched them in the mouth first and it gave us some cushion on the back end,” King’s Academy head coach Dante Turnipseed said after the game.
The King’s Academy scored immediately to start the game, as freshman guard Bailey Tidwell caught the opening tip and sprinted down the court for a layup and a 2-0 Lady Lions lead.
On Notre Dame’s second offensive possession, the TKA faithful all held their breath as standout forward Brady Branam fell to the court with what looked to be a leg injury. The sophomore would exit the game, but would re-enter late in the first quarter, as the injury was not as serious as it initially looked.
“She skinned herself and she was like, ‘It hurt, but now it doesn’t hurt,’ She was like, ‘Oh, I’m good'” Turnipseed said of the injury. “I thought, ‘Please don’t go down like that.’ But she came back and was fine. I think it was just a scary movement and she’s fine.”
Leah Thornton drained a three for TKA to put the Lady Lions up 5-0 with 6:23 remaining in the first quarter, but Notre Dame answered with a basket by Miriam Gaines to make the score 5-2.
Skylar Walden nailed a three for the Lady Lions to make the score 8-2 on the next possession, forcing the Fighting Irish to call a timeout. Dayonna Perryman would answer for Notre Dame out of the timeout, trimming the TKA lead to 8-4.
The Lady Lions scored again when Emily Atchley grabbed a miss by Juleigh Anne Tucker and made the putback to make the score 10-4. TKA would lead 12-7 when Tucker hit a three to increase the Lady Lions’ lead to 15-7 with 1:55 left in the first.
A steal and layup by Walden would give TKA a 17-7 lead with 10 seconds left and that would be the score after one quarter.
The King’s Academy took a 24-10 lead midway through the second quarter and a basket and free throw by Branam extended the lead to 27-10, followed by a Branam three that stretched the lead to 30-10, as the Lady Lions would lead by 20 at the half.
TKA continued its dominance in the second half, as Tidwell opened the third quarter with a three to make the score 33-13. A triple by Tucker would then stretch the lead to 36-14 with 5:28 left in the quarter.
Notre Dame’s Maliyah Maples answered with a three to cut the Fighting Irish deficit to 36-17, but a nice assist from Tucker to Tidwell would push the TKA lead to 38-17.
The King’s Academy lead 47-19 after a basket by Tucker late in the third quarter, which was followed by a three by Olivia Loveday to make the score 50-19 with 15 seconds left. The Lady Lions led 50-19 heading into the fourth quarter.
Turnipseed emptied the bench in the fourth quarter, as TKA had a running clock and the Lady Lions came away with a convincing 56-23 win.
TKA’s Brady Branam led all scorers with 14 points, while Juleigh Anne Tucker finished with 13 and Bailey Tidwell added 12.
Dayonna Perryman led Notre Dame with 11, while Maliyah Maples finished with 7 points.
“Their point guard, Maples, we knew she was a very good basketball player and we told them that you’ve got to stop her and Perryman,” Turnipseed said of the Fighting Irish leading scorers. “(Perryman) rebounds the ball really, really well and if we box her out, we’ve got a chance. Our plan was stop number 12, get the offensive rebound and let’s go play our basketball and we did it.”
The Lady Lions (19-9) will look to continue playing their style of basketball on Friday night, as they will travel to Lakeway Christian for a region semifinal bout with Boyd Buchanan (19-6) at 6:30 p.m. TKA defeated the Lady Buccaneers on the road 55-52 in December.