ELLISVILLE, MS (WDAM) - The Jones College Lady Bobcats had fits getting the ball in the basket during Thursday night’s Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges’ women’s basketball championship game at A.B. Howard Gymnasium.
But JC came up with enough big plays on both ends of the court in the final 71 seconds of the game to pull off a 58-52 victory, earning the program its third consecutive MACJC state crown.
“I’m proud of the girls,” said JC coach Missy Bilderback, who owns a 99-15 record in her four years with the Lady Bobcats. “When you play for a state championship, it’s going to be tough.
“But I will say that we defended and rebounded when we had to down the stretch. Ultimately, I think we won it on the defensive end.”
The 13th-ranked Lady Bobcats (24-2) moves into next week’s Region 23 Tournament at Mississippi College in Clinton. The two-time defending champion Lady Bobcats open against Northeast Mississippi Community College at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
A third consecutive region title would send JC to its third consecutive National Junior College Athletic Association Division I National Tournament in Lubbock, Texas.
“It’s a big week and we want to go back to Lubbock,” Bilderback said. “These kids deserve to be out there and deserve an opportunity to compete with the best in the country.”
Jones had to compete at its best down the stretch Thursday because the Lady Bobcats struggled from the field, shooting just 29 percent from the floor.
“Obviously, Co-Lin has been one of the more consistent and more talented teams in the league and they did a good job,” Bilderback said. “They controlled tempo and we were not able to get out and do some of the things we wanted to do.”
Still, Jones led for the better part of the game, and held a nine-point lead, 42-33, heading into the fourth quarter.
But the Lady Wolves (20-6) kept coming, and when T’Kyra Hicks banked in a 3-pointer, the Lady Bobcats found themselves trailing 48-47 with 1:25 to play.
Immediately, JC rallied, getting the ball downcourt to Kyla Weathersby, who missed the first shot, but got the rebound and scored, giving the Lady Bobcats a lead they would not lose.
JC’s Destiny Haymer came up with a steal on Co-Lin’s ensuing possession that Maya Jones turned into a basket at the other end for a 51-48 lead.
The Lady Wolves then missed a 3-pointer, got the rebound, but committed a turnover, fouling Breonca Ducksworth.
Ducksworth hit both free throws to push JC’s lead to five points with 31 seconds to play. Another Co-Lin turnover led to two more free throws from Haymer and a 55-48 lead with 19 seconds to play.
Hicks scored, but Ducksworth finished off the game with an old-fashioned three-point play.
“(Haymer) had a huge play late for us defensively and Duck had the transition play to finish it off,” Bilderback said. “I’m really proud of the fact that during (some tough) moments, the team has stuck together, and during those moments, we have just found a way to win.
“We will take an ugly win over a pretty loss any day. We will celebrate this because state championships aren’t given out.”
Maya Jones led the Lady Bobcats with 15 points and Weathersby added 14. Keyara Jones, Ducksworth and Haymer scored nine points each, while Keyara Jones led JC with eight rebounds and Ducksworth handed out a team-high five assists.