The previous two times Hattiesburg girls basketball made it to the state title, they lost by one possession on both occasions.
The third time was the charm for the Lady Tigers. A last-second layup by Chelsea Ulmer gave Hattiesburg its first state championship in girls basketball.
“I just looked up and saw Chelsea with the ball and just prayed it went in and it did,” said Hattiesburg head coach Caronica Jackson.
“The moment, all I could do was drop down,” Ulmer said. “I just started crying. That’s all I could do is drop down and start crying. I didn’t play defense at all. I stopped at the front of the bench and started crying.”
Ulmer scored ten points in Hattiesburg’s 48-47 win over West Jones – none bigger than the two in the final seconds.
However, just a month prior, the sophomore was watching from the bench. Ulmer suffered a stress fracture in her leg in January and did not return to the lineup until the Lady Tigers’ quarterfinal matchup with Neshoba Central.
“It was kind of shaky,” Ulmer said. “I was scared, of course. I was like, Lord, any minute it could crack. And that’s all I was worried about, it could crack. I hope it doesn’t crack, let me finish out the season.”
“Definitely big to have Chelsea back,” Jackson said. “That was one of the things we were talking about. Should we keep her [out] for defense? I said no we need her to stay in case we need somebody to score the ball. Luckily, she was in the right place at the right time and she finished it.”
What Ulmer didn’t realize in the heat of the moment was how monumental her basket was. That shot was for every Lady Tiger senior, for coach Jackson – who had lost in the state title in 2009 and 2012 – and for the city of Hattiesburg.
“We did this game for the seniors,” Ulmer said. “For our seniors this year and our coach. We did this for her. We did it for her.”
“It’s big for the city,” Jackson said. “Like I said, everybody’s been so close so many times. And to finally get over that hump and bring one home for the city, it feels really good.”