WAVERLY – Paige Carter proved to be too much for the Jackson Ironladies to handle in the second half on Friday, as they fell to Waverly 53-38 in a Division II sectional final.

Carter, who scored 22 of her 23 points in the second half, and Kelli Stewart (13 points) combined for 36 points to lead Waverly (15-5), which outscored Jackson 31-18 in the final 16 minutes.

TJ Carpenter scored 11 points to pace the Ironladies, who ended their season with a 10-12 record overall. Sydney Hughes finished with nine points and Mattie Walburn added eight in the loss. Katelyn Webb and Kenzie Davis had six and four points, respectively for the Ironladies, who were outrebounded 32-30.

After trailing by as many as five in the first quarter, the Lady Tigers were able to pull ahead by four points, 11-7, and led by two at the break, 22-20.

Jackson tied the game at 22-all to begin the second half, but Waverly finished the third quarter with an 18-9 run to take a 40-31 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

The Ironladies got within eight points early in the final period but could get no closer, as Waverly closed with an 11-4 run for its first sectional tournament title in 21 years.

“We got beat by a better basketball team tonight,” said Jackson head coach Matt Walburn. “We have to learn from that and try to grow.”

Jackson came out and scored the first five points of the game on a field goal by Walburn and a three-pointer by Hughes to give the Ironladies the early advantage. Waverly countered with a 6-2 run to close within one before Ava Little scored and Stewart added a free throw and a basket to put the Tigers up 11-7.

Waverly took its largest lead of the half after Stewart converted a three-point play to give the Lady Tigers a 17-11 lead with 4:17 to play.

However, the Ironladies came back with four consecutive points on baskets by Walburn and Carpenter, before Waverly stopped the run on two made free throws by Carli Knight to put the Lady Tigers back up by five, 20-15.

Jackson closed out the final two minutes of the half with a 5-2 run on a pair of free throws by Carpenter and a three-pointer by Webb to get within 22-20 at the break.

“We played them (Waverly) in our fifth game during the regular season, and they started with a 12-0 run against us, while we didn’t score our first point until the final 1:42 mark in the first quarter,” said Walburn. “Our team has grown since then and we came out and jumped up 7-2 early.

“I thought tonight, we had spurts that really hurt us. Foul trouble killed us, but going into halftime, it was 22-20, after making 8-for-27, as well as 2-for-5 from the free-throw line, and we were in foul trouble with 12 turnovers. When you look at that, you should probably be down by 10 or 12 points, but we were down by only two.”

Walburn scored six points to lead the Ironladies in the opening half, while Webb (five points) and Carpenter (four points) combined for nine points for Jackson.

A basket by Carpenter tied the game 22-22 to begin the third quarter, but Waverly went on an 18-9 run, as Carter scored nine points to take a 40-31 lead with eight minutes left to play.

After an exchange of baskets, Webb made one-of-two free throws to cut the lead to 42-34 with 6:06 remaining.

From there, the Ironladies went 6:17 without a field goal, while Waverly went on an 11-1 run, capped by Carter with a basket for her 1,000th career point with 57.4 seconds left.

Hughes converted a three-point play for Jackson with 49.4 seconds left to cap the scoring for the game.

The Ironladies shot 30.6 percent (15 of 49) for the game, including 18.1 percent (2 of 11) from three-point range, and committed 25 turnovers.

It was the final game for Jackson seniors Taylor Evans and Maycee Burnside.

“You try your very best to give your seniors somewhat of a send-off at the end of the game and try to get the crowd to appreciate what they have done,” said Walburn. “Both of those girls are valedictorians of our senior class and they have been in this program for a long time, and really haven’t had much success.

“To stick it out and continue to play, it speaks volumes of their character and what type of people they are. It is always tough to say good-bye to your seniors and I am losing two great ones.”

It is also heartbreaking when a team loses its final game, but the good news for Jackson is its entire starting lineup, surrounded by a good nucleus of players will return in 2021-22.

Waverly will now move on but the road won’t be easy.

The No. 7 Lady Tigers will advance to face the winner of No. 2 Vinton County and No. 15 Gallia Academy in a district semifinal on Tuesday night.