Three Pine Belt teams headed for State title matchups

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - One team will have the chance to defend its state title, while another plays in its school's first ever soccer state championship. The girls team for South Jones High School took down visiting Pascagoula 2-1, while the girls team for Sacred Heart High School also won 2-1 on the road at Our Lady Academy.

Sacred Heart's boys team won a thrilling game over visiting St. Andrews Episcopal in a penalty shootout.

The Braves, playing in their first ever South State Championship game, battled Pascagoula to a 0-0 tie before Mary Kate Smith out-ran her defender to a lose ball near the box and grounded a shot past the keeper to give her team a 1-nill lead.

After a scrum for a lose ball in the Braves' box, the Panthers tied things up at one only moments later. With 15 minutes remaining, Smith struck again, lofting a left-footed strike over the keep from the left side to give her team the lead for good. The Braves avoided at least one narrow miss on goal, and held on to win the school's first ever soccer South State title.

"It means absolutely everything-to me, to the team, to the school, to this county-everything,"said an exuberant Head Coach Lily Trent after the win, "We're the last ones standing in the county. So to represent Jones County and to represent South Jones for the first time ever, it just means everything.

"All our hard work has paid off."

It took every ounce of work, and ever last second of game time, for a winner to emerge from the Graveyard. Sacred Heart and St. Andrews duked it out for a full game, two extra 10-minute periods, and two more 5-minute periods with no goals to show for it.

The 'Saders made their first three penalty kicks, while the Saints' third attempt was saved by Sacred Heart keep Clint Kelly. But the home team also failed to connect on its fourth-attempt, allowing St. Andrews to tie the shoot-out at 3.

It all came down to the foot of senior forward Jon Moreno; a make, and the Crusaders head back to Jackson for a fourth straight time. A miss combined with a St. Andrews make meant the Saints would march to Jackson.

Moreno's bullet flew just to the right of the keep, and Sacred Heart celebrated a fourth straight South State championship. They'll have a chance to defend their state title on Saturday.

The Crusader boys will take on 7-6 Philadelphia, while the girls still have to wait and see who they'll play in their championship. Sacred Heart takes on the winner of Pontotoc and Clarkdale, who play Thursday at 5:00 pm.

As for the Braves, they'll play 14-3-6 Ridgeland. All game times are still to be announced by the Mississippi High School Activities Association.

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