Still improving, Urbana Tigers just misses their first win

The Urbana girls' varsity basketball team was just a stone's throw away from winning their first basketball game of the season on Saturday. Though they delivered a solid defensive effort, the Tigers (0-9) fell at home 42-32 to Peoria Manual (2-5).

McKenzie Sprague brings the ball down the court in the fourth quarter of the Tigers' home game against Manual. She finished the game with eight points.
Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
"Defensively, when you hold a team to 42 points that is a great defensive effort. Throughout the game we had some really great defensive moments with our press where we were forcing turnovers and getting points off of those turnovers," said head coach Bobby Boykin. "We just need to continue to be smarter defensively, and continue to work on our communication."

Urbana took a one-point lead, going up 4-3, midway into the first quarter. The home team later stretched their advantage to as many as three before Manual's Alexis Smith hit a jumper to erase the deficit and tie the score at 11-all with 1:39 left in the period.

After a free throw from Thiah Butler with 7:48 left in the half, the Tigers enjoyed a brief lead for the last time during the conference game at Oscar Adams Gym before falling behind at the end of the second quarter, 22-18.

Gabrielle Mboyo-Meta played her best game of the season, collecting a season-high 12 points. By the end of the first half, she tallied all but two of her game-high finish.

Starting the second half with an 18-22 deficit, Urbana held the Rams scoreless for 3 minutes and 45 seconds. Back-to-back steals, the first by junior McKenzie Sprague followed up another from Gabrielle Mboyo-Meta, helped fuel a 10-point run to put the Tigers up 28-22 with 5:15 left in the third quarter.

Unable to sustain their dominance, Urbana gave up six unanswered points in the last two minutes and 42 seconds of the quarter only to fall behind, 34-30.

"We are improving as a team," Boykin added. "We just need to put everything together for four quarters."

Senior Zineria Edwards pulls down an offensive rebound in the fourth quarter for the Tigers. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Despite their best effort, the Tigers could not get a ball through the rim until Jasmine McCullough came off the bench with almost a minute left on the game clock to hit a field goal for the team's only points in the second quarter. The nearly nine-minute shooting drought starting in the third quarter quashed Urbana's chance to notch their first victory of the season.

"Offensively, we did a great job of getting the ball into their zone and then relocating. We just have to finish our shots." "As a team, this was probably our best performance of the season thus far," Boykin said.

Sprague was 2-for-2 from the free throw line and contributed eight points as the team's second-leading scorer. Butler and Destiny Barber added another four points apiece. Mboyo-Meta was also perfect from the charity stripe sinking the ball on both attempts.

The Rams were led on offense by sophomore guard Antaya Taylor who matched Mboyo-Meta's 12 points. Manual also got double-digit output from senior Jazzlyn Latta.

"This was a game that we were really close to pulling out," the first-year Urbana coach pointed out. "The turnovers at the end really took a toll on us. It just comes down to execution at the end."

Box Score

Final: Manual 42 - Urbana 32

Urbana --
Mboyo-Meta 10-2-12, Sprague 6-2-8, McCullough 2-0-2, Barber 2-2-4, Butler 2-2-4, McCullough 2-0-2, Hall 2-0-2

Manual --
Mack 4-3-7, Bryant 2-2-4, Taylor 8-4-12, Latta 9-1-10, Randle 3-0-3, Hinkle 2-0-2, Smith 2-0-2.