JACKSON, Miss. (WDAM) - In a season of firsts, the Laurel girls basketball team reached the ultimate milestone on Friday night.
The Lady Tornadoes survived Holmes County Central 39-36 at the “Big House” in Jackson to claim the program’s first state championship.
Laurel jumped out to a 37-30 lead in the fourth quarter before the Lady Jaguars stormed back to make it a one point game with less than a minute to play.
Kelsi Andrews had an opportunity to give Holmes County its first lead of the game in the waning seconds but missed both her attempts at the free throw line.
Laurel senior Zoey Cooley was a cool customer at the other end of the court, sinking two free throws to give the Lady Tornadoes a 39-36 cushion with 5.4 seconds remaining. Forced to go the full length of the court, the Lady Jaguars fumbled the ball out of bounds and victory fell into the hands of Laurel High School.
Senior Mackenzie Thomas earned the game’s Most Valuable Player award with nine points to lead the Lady Tornadoes. Her fellow Jones College signee Cooley added eight points.
“They bought into working hard in June,” said Laurel head coach Sherri Cooley. “We couldn’t get in the gym to shoot the ball but they were able to get in the weight room and they did it. And I told them if we do this, we can play in March for the state championship. And they believed, they bought into our system and they worked hard. They deserve it.”
In just two years, Sherri Cooley has led Laurel to 33 wins, two class 5A semifinal appearances and the 2021 state championship.