It took eight tries for the Priceville Lady Bulldogs to reach the AHSAA Final Four. But, the eighth time proved to be the charm as Priceville defeated Deshler, the defending 4A state champs, 68-64 to advance to Birmingham for the first time in program history.
Deshler has been the Lady Bulldogs’ arch-nemesis over the 14 years that Terrie Nelson has been Priceville’s head coach. The Lady Tigers have defeated Nelson’s Lady Bulldogs four times in their eight trips to the regionals.
But it was Nelson and Priceville’s moment to shine in the building that Nelson’s father, Larry Slater, coached for more than 20 years as the head coach of the Wallace State women’s basketball program.
This year has been the first year that Priceville has played at Wallace since Nelson’s death in 2021.
Nelson and the Lady Bulldogs were in the locker room where Slater had so many teaching moments, which was very special for Nelson.
“Oh my. What a day. I knew it was going to be special when I woke up this morning,” Nelson said. “I know my Daddy is dancing in heaven today. He would have loved this.”
Priceville, who lost to Deshler by four in January, battled with the 4A No. 2 Lady Tigers for four quarters. They withstood numerous Deshler runs to be the last one standing.
Deshler jumped out to an 8-3 first-quarter lead before the Lady Bulldogs took over. Priceville outscored the Lady Tigers 18-4 to take a 20-12 lead following the first quarter.
The Lady Bulldogs extended the lead to 32-23 at halftime after outscoring Deshler 12-11 in the second quarter. Leslie Hames led the way at the half with 11 points and five rebounds, while Lauren Hames had six points.
Lauren Hames opened the third quarter with a three-pointer to extend the Lady Bulldog’s lead to 35-23. Her basket was the first time Priceville scored first in a quarter in the game. Deshler went on a 12-2 run to cut the lead to 37-35 with 4:09 left in the third quarter. The Lady Tigers retook the lead, for the first time since the first quarter, at 46-45 with a minute left. The two teams went to the fourth, tied 47-47.
Priceville opened the fourth quarter on an 8-2 run to take a 55-49 lead with 5:47 left. Deshler responded with their own 8-0 run to take a 57-55 lead with 4:10 remaining. The Lady Tigers extended their lead to 60-56 with three minutes remaining. The Lady Bulldogs closed the game on a 12-4 run to earn the hard-fought victory.
Leslie Hames finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and three steals to lead Priceville. She was named Tournament MVP along with being named to the All-Tournament team. Lauren Hames added 14 points and five rebounds. Ashlyn Johnson had nine points, four rebounds and four assists, while freshman Abby Langlois had eight points, four rebounds, three assists and a block.
Nelson’s daughter, Carly Jo, had seven points in the family affair. Nelson’s sister, Jeaniece Slater, is an assistant coach for the team. There are two other sets of sisters on the team. They are the Hames sisters, Leslie and Lauren, along with assistant coach Lannah Johnson Graham and guard Ashlyn Johnson.
The Lady Bulldogs advanced to the regional finals by defeating St. John Paul II 58-37 in the semifinals. Leslie Hames led Priceville with 15 points, five rebounds and seven steals. Lillyan Bloodworth added 10 points and Langlois had eight points and two blocks.